Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are being sought by New Hampshire hospitals and the American Red Cross because the liquid portion of their blood might help treat sick people.
A number of hospitals including Elliott in Manchester, Southern New Hampshire in Nashua, Portsmouth Regional Hospital and Dartmouth-Hitchcock in Lebanon have put out appeals to recovered COVID-19 patients seeking blood donations. The American Red Cross has now joined in.
The idea is to take plasma from these people’s blood in hopes that it contains antibodies against the novel coronavirus, which is officially known as SARS-CoV-2.
Antibodies are products of the natural immune system that can attack the coronavirus as soon as it enters the body. They are created by the body to fight off a pathogen when a patient gets infected.
Vaccines protect patients largely by prodding the body into developing antibodies without having to get sick. No vaccine for COVID-19 will be widely available for another year at the earliest, so for the time being the only way to quickly produce antibodies in a person is to transfer some via what is known as “convalescent plasma” from recovered patients.
Convalescent plasma is a successful treatment in many diseases but has not been developed for COVID-19. The Food and Drug Administration has fast-tracked research into the area, which is why health-care and academic facilities are looking for material to study.
The Mayo Clinic says that initial data from small studies indicate that patients with severe symptoms from COVID-19 improve markedly after a single 200 ml dose of convalescent plasma. But more study is needed to make sure the process is safe and to figure out dosage and other protocols.
In a statement, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center said, “A single blood draw can provide plasma for up to two patients, as well as samples for research, including the development of a test at DHMC to measure COVID-19 antibody levels.”
The American Red Cross says people are eligible if that have “a verified prior diagnosis of COVID-19” and are now “symptom-free and fully recovered.”
To contribute or find out more, contact any of the hospitals or check the Red Cross’
COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Donor Information Page.