Convalescent plasma has been saving lives for more than a century. Now doctors are using it in a new way to help slow the spread of COVID-19.
If given early, convalescent plasma can help people with serious coronavirus symptoms, not only improving their chance of survival, but reducing the amount of time they spend in the hospital.
MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, MedStar Washington Hospital Center and Johns Hopkins University are teaming up to use this treatment outside of a hospital setting for the first time, and they need volunteers.
“Convalescent plasma is not a new discovery,” said Dr. Seble Kassaye, who is part of the research team. “It's something that's been used in the settings of pandemics, epidemics, infectious diseases over a century now. This is the first time it's being applied in the outpatient setting, in the coronavirus pandemic.”
The study uses blood from recovered coronavirus patients and infusing those infection-fighting antibodies into people who have been exposed to COVID-19 but have yet to develop symptoms.
“The imminent threat could be that you got exposed to somebody with the virus, someone in your household, a colleague that you work with and you're in close quarters,” Kassaye said. “You may not have infection yet, but you're at risk for becoming infected.”
Dr. Jonathan Orens got involved over the summer after his daughter tested positive for COVID-19 after flying home from Los Angeles, which was a hotbed at the time.
“She did everything she possibly could to stay protected from COVID,” Orens said. “She wore a mask. She wore gloves. She used hand sanitizer when she didn't have the gloves on.”
Orens worried about his own risk, too, and reached out to a colleague who told him about the randomized clinical trial. He enrolled the next day.
“They infused the plasma into our arms through the IV over about an hour or two,” he said. “It was really quite simple.”
He says he never tested positive for COVID-19.
Researchers are recruiting more volunteers locally and across the country.
Coronavirus Cases in DC, Maryland and Virginia
COVID-19 cases by population in D.C. and by county in Maryland and Virginia
Doctors say the end result could save lives, especially among those with frontline jobs.
“My colleagues, health care workers who may get exposed either at work or in their homes, people who are frontline workers, Kassaye said. “They're out there. They're staffing our grocery stores. They're working hard and don't have the luxury of working from home.”
Researchers hope to have results from the study by the end of the year, but they need more people to take part.
Anyone within three to four days of exposure may be able to enroll.
To fill out a questionnaire and get more information, call 888-506-1199 or visit www.CovidPlasmaTrial.org.