The University of Chicago Medicine has begun a clinical trial to study whether the blood plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 can be used to treat hospitalized patients in serious condition.
The trial will recruit plasma donors from existing UChicago Medicine patients and others in Chicago who tested positive and recovered from COVID-19. These plasma donations will be used to treat patients currently hospitalized at UChicago Medicine. The initial study will investigate only the safety and feasibility of procedures to identify donors, collect plasma donations, and administer transfusions. Further study of the effectiveness of such treatment will require additional trials.
“This trial is only the first step, but hopefully it will help us determine if plasma transfusions can be a treatment for critically ill patients with COVID-19,” Asst said. Prof. Maria Lucia Madariaga, general surgeon for thoracic and lung transplantation at UChicago Medicine who is leading the clinical trial.
As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, hospitals around the world have begun testing plasma as a potential treatment, including those in China, as well as in New York City and Houston.
“There has been a great barrier to widespread study in the United States because it requires extensive collaboration across disciplines,” said Madariaga. “At UChicago, we are very fortunate to have all of the equipment necessary to perform a convalescent plasma test under one roof: Division of Biological Sciences, Blood Bank, Department of Medicine, Institute of Transplants, and Department of Surgery.”
Plasma is the liquid in which blood cells are suspended. When someone is infected with a virus, the body’s immune system produces proteins called antibodies that can search for and neutralize the virus. Transfusion of plasma containing these antibodies into seriously ill patients could give your immune system additional resources to fight infection. After a patient recovers, the antibodies remain in their blood and can provide immunity; however, it is not yet known how long a patient is immune once they have recovered from COVID-19.
Donating plasma for testing is similar to donating blood. A single donation of plasma from one patient can be used for multiple recipients. Participants will donate a unit of blood that can be transfused to current UChicago patients in serious or critical condition for COVID-19. Once the researchers evaluate the safety and feasibility of this process, they can begin additional trials to study the effectiveness of plasma transfusions as a treatment.
The researchers will recruit adults in Chicago who tested positive and recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood and participate in the study. Those interested in participating and donating plasma can visit the website of the convalescent plasma study COVID-19, send an email to [email protected] or call 773-702-5526.