coronavirus

Local Hospitals Begin Treating Coronavirus Patients With Blood From Survivors

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Several D.C. hospitals are taking part in an experimental treatment that could be a lifesaver for critical COVID-19 patients.

MedStar Georgetown University Hospital and MedStar Washington Hospital Center are part of a clinical trial sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. It’s called convalescent plasma therapy, injecting antibodies from coronavirus survivors into patients who are still fighting the virus at the hospital.

Dr. Craig Kessler, director of the coagulation laboratory at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, said the treatment has had promising results so far.

“The patients who have received the plasmas have actually done better. But it's a little too early to know whether it's what we did or something else,” Kessler said.

The treatment is experimental and has helped in past pandemics like the Spanish Flu and SARS. Kessler said the results of this study could be ready in six months.

“We will know probably within three to four hundred patients as to whether or not what we're doing is successful. If it's successful, it will change the standard of care for these patients,” Kessler said.

Nico Ubide, 21, took part in the study. He said he had no idea he was sick when he went home to Potomac from the University of Pennsylvania in March. His pediatrician encouraged him to get tested after Ubide learned some of his classmates tested positive for the novel coronavirus.

“I went in for a drive-thru test, and a few days later, I was told that I tested positive. I had very, very mild symptoms to say the least. I had no fever, no chills, no dry cough,” Ubide said.

Ubide spent 14 days in quarantine in his home, developing an immunity to the virus during that time as he recovered. Then he started to look for ways he could help others and came across a convalescent plasma study.

“I never donated blood before. It’s pretty easy. You wait 45 minutes and you're hooked up to this machine and you see how the machine starts kind of pulling plasma out of your system,” Ubide said.

A coronavirus survivor can donate their blood at least 14 days after they recover and test negative for the virus. Or they can donate if they’re symptom-free for at least 28 days. The hospital does the testing on the spot and you can donate your blood at the Red Cross — which then sends the blood to MedStar. Kessler said they have already treated seven patients over the past few weeks.

One donor can help three different patients, but they need more plasma donors to help take part. To take part in MedStar Georgetown University Hospital’s convalescent plasma donor program, email: MGUHDonatePlasma@medstar.net.  

Other hospitals are doing their own convalescent plasma programs.

Find out if you meet Inova Health System's standard criteria for blood donation at inovablood.org/eligibility. To sign up, email covid19plasma@ inova.org or call 703-776-4899.

Find information about Children’s National Hospital's program here: https:// childrensnational.org/departments/pathology-and-laboratory-medicine/blood-donor-center/convalescent-plasma-program.

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