Here’s a question from a reader:
Dear Dr. Prescott: Two friends of my parents are in the hospital with the virus, and one was just transferred to a medical center where she could potentially receive a plasma transfusion from COVID-19 survivors. What are the chances of this actually working? Also, I was wondering if my husband, who has also tested positive but has a mild case, should be donating plasma to potentially help her or someone else?
— Beth Benefield, Moore
Dr. Prescott Prescribes
When a person survives an infectious disease like COVID-19, their blood is left containing antibodies, proteins the immune system makes to fight off the pathogen that caused the illness. The portion of the blood — plasma — that carries the antibodies can be collected from the survivor and administered to newly infected people.
Known as “convalescent plasma,” this treatment approach is far from new. Indeed, it dates back to the late 1800s and has been used to combat a long list of illnesses, including the 1918 Spanish flu and communicable diseases contracted by American troops during World War II and the Korean War.
More recently, it also served as an important stopgap during the Ebola outbreak in Western Africa, saving the lives of infected patients until scientists were eventually able to create protective vaccines against the virus.
There’s reason to believe convalescent plasma could also treat COVID-19 patients. To find out if this treatment works, clinical trials are now underway at sites around the world, including at the OU Medical Center in Oklahoma City.
The Oklahoma Blood Institute has also begun collecting plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19 for use as experimental convalescent plasma treatments for other seriously ill patients. I’d encourage your husband to participate, but only after he’s recovered. To be eligible, he needs to be symptom-free for 14 days and test negative for the virus.
For more detailed information on the OBI program and to find out how to participate, he can go to obi.org.