NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — This week a growing number of hospitals are starting to take plasma donations from those who have recovered from coronavirus and give them to patients.
Julie Thaler recovered from COVID-19, so it is believed she developed antibodies, proteins that can fight the infection, CBS2’s Lisa Rozner reported Monday.
Those antibodies are found in the plasma in her blood.
“I’m hoping I can help people,” Thaler said.
She’s donating her plasma to Mount Sinai Health System, which has already transfused similar such donations to more than 60 patients.
It’s called convalescent plasma therapy, a method that’s been used in the past century to kickstart a person’s immune system. It was used during the 1918 Spanish Influenza, measles, and more recently SARS and even ebola.
Mount Sinai Hospital President Dr. David Reich said in order to know if this treatment is effective, the hospital must wait until they have studied closer to 100 patients and then follow them for at least 10 days after receiving the plasma.
It’s an experiment seeing “if this shortens the length of hospital stay or decreases complications, or it would be very hard to see if it lowers mortality rate,” he said. “We give it within four days of hospital admission to those people who are no doing well.”
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“We give it within four days of hospital admission to those people who are not doing well,” said Reich.
In New Jersey on Saturday, medical staff at The Valley Hospital in Ridgewood New Jersey proudly administered its first dose to a patient and since has distributed to six more.
“Right now there’s not a lot of it, and it also has to be matched with blood types,” said Dr. Neil Gaffin, an infectious disease specialist at The Valley Hospital. “The good news is one donor can actually potentially treat up to four patients.”
Hackensack Meridian Health has tried it on four patients. Within eight hours, an on-site lab identified the level of antibodies in the blood.
Dr. Kevin Tracey, president and CEO of the system’s Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research, cautions the FDA has allowed hospitals to use it on an experimental basis.
“There’s a dangerous assumption that this will be beneficial,” he said. “We don’t know the optimal time for the plasma to be donated. Is it better to have plasma a week after the illness, a month, two months?
“If you look back 100 years, the idea of using plasma as therapy, it seems almost always to use this plasma in someone who never been sick as a way to prevent them from getting sick,” he added. “It might help potential patients who are already sick, but there’s a long way to go before we can say that.”
Tracey says it will take months to find out if the risks outweigh the benefits. Dozens of hospitals nationwide using the therapy have registered through the Mayo Clinic which is tracking the research.