Plasma of COVID-19 Survivor

Could supply educated immune proteins

Woman Holding Coronavirus Vial

Woman Holding Coronavirus Vial

Blood of recovered COVID-19 patients is being studied for coronavirus antibodies. The treatment involving blood transfusions and known as convalescent plasma therapy, is also one of the oldest known.

Based on the principle of passive immunity, it embodies core principle of modern immunology: white blood cells like leukocytes that produce antibodies have memories that can be passed on from one person to another as in the case of mother to child in colostrum or as with blood transfusions.

These are not ordinary blood transfusions though. These ones provide the educated antibodies of someone who has fought off the coronavirus to the blood of someone whose immune system can’t identify the virus as a threat. The concept was used extensively during the 1918 Spanish flu, Ebola, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) epidemics. In addition, the experimental therapy was used on five COVID-19 patients in China with reports indicating the treatment was beneficial as part of a larger protocol.

Dr. Eric Salazar, who is overseeing the care of patients in Texas, is going back to the basics of immunology and using a century-old treatment at Houston Methodist Hospital. There is faint hope from preliminary results in China that what he’s relying on could become part of the standard therapy for the coronavirus known as COVID-19.

HOW PLASMA THERAPY WORKS

Blood taken from recovered patients contains antibodies that can attack the virus. Dr. Salazar recruited blood plasma from donors for whom the diagnosis was past at least two weeks, a time when their antibody titers should be quite high. Each volunteers gave a quart of blood plasma that was transfused into two acutely ill persons.

“The idea is that plasma may have part of the immune system, like antibodies, against the COVID-19 virus that could potentially help patients who are currently sick with COVID-19,” Dr. Salazar said in a video interview with the Today Show.

GENEROUS HEARTS IN NYC

Julie Thaler, a kindergarten teacher, is a COVID-19 survivor who is donating her blood to be used in transfusions for New York City patients.

“I am one of the survivors,” she told a reporter. “It’s a tough ride. I got very lucky, and it was a way that I could give back.”

“We have some idea, partially from the 1918 influenza epidemic, that taking blood plasma from one person and giving it to another actually may improve outcomes,” Dr. Nicole Bouvier told the media. Her team at New York’s Mount Sinai will soon be using the same treatment just performed in Houston.

We don’t know yet how well blood transfusions will work or at what point of the illness they should be introduced. The reports from China caution that other therapies were employed as well.

DUAL PURPOSE

By identifying persons who have been exposed to the coronavirus and now have immunity, we can determine what percentage of the population has been exposed, useful information as we prepare society for a safe resumption of normal life. Also, antibodies will be able to be used for a vaccination as well. Innovation is moving at a fast clip.

“An aggressive testing regimen with our front lines to find out who has levels of immunity is an opportunity to get back to the new normal as quickly as possible,” touts Lou Reese, co-CEO of United Biomedical, an international bio-tech company that is among a handful who are in a race to bring a serology test to market that can quickly identify the coronavirus antibody. The company plans testing the total population, numbering around 8,000, in San Miguel County in Colorado.

Then, those who test positive, can open their hearts to donating their blood so that others may live.

Dr. Salazar says he knows Americans have big hearts and told CBS News, “I don't think any center across the country is going to have any trouble recruiting donors that have recovered from COVID-19. These are incredibly generous people.”

All over America these survivors can give their blood too once the antibody test is put into wide use. The race is joined in so many different ways.

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