Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan started collecting blood from people who have recovered from the coronavirus Thursday. Scientists say they plan to use it to treat other patients.
The treatment is known as "human convalescent plasma" and New York is the first state in the U.S. to use this treatment on patients of COVID-19.
When a person gets infected with coronavirus or any other germ, the body makes antibodies to fight the infection. Once a person recovers, those antibodies float in a survivor's blood for months, or even years.
The plasma infusion approach would give patients a temporary shot of someone else's antibodies to treat the disease.
If the treatment is effective, people with immunity could return to work while health care workers with immunity could continue to care for the severely ill.
Although this is the first time plasma infusions will be used for coronavirus patients, the treatment itself is centuries-old.
They were used during the 1918 flu pandemic as well as the SARS and Ebola outbreaks, and against infections like measles and bacterial pneumonia, before vaccines were developed.
Unlike a vaccine, any immunity from this type of treatment would be temporary. Even so, it could offer hope to help treat patients as researchers work tirelessly on a vaccine which is at least a year away.
Mount Sinai Hospital will begin using plasma infusions on only the most severe COVID-19 cases.