HOUSTON - Doctors and researchers are working tirelessly to find alternative ways to attack COVID-19, until a vaccine is developed. One of those options includes using plasma from a recovered patient to help others build immunity.
A plasma clinical trial at Baylor College of Medicine is now underway. The hospital has treated 9 patients and seen positive results so far.
Doctors say the hope is that plasma could play a significant role in keeping the virus at bay.
High demand from patients leads Dr. Ashok Balasubramanyam and his team at Baylor College of Medicine to explore a Convalescent Plasma clinical trial to help patients with minor and severe symptoms of COVID-19 ward off the virus.
"The idea is that if you take the blood from somebody who’s had the COVID infection and has recovered from the COVID infection. Their blood or the plasma part of the blood should contain the antibodies that can attack the virus," Dr.Balasubramanyam said.
Those anti-bodies are then transferred to recipients through an IV blood infusion, a quick and seemingly simple process.
The bigger challenge boils down to finding the right blood-match from a narrow field of eligible donors.
"You have a patient who’s sick. You have to find out their blood group. Let’s say the blood group is A. Then you have to find a donor who’s also A, who had COVID, who recovered from COVID. And is far down enough the road that they are fully healthy and now are known to be negative for COVID," Dr. Balasubramanyam said.
One donor could benefit up to three recipients but the anti-bodies may only be effective for a month.
Dr. Balasubramanyam says plasma treatments are not designed to activate lasting immunity like a vaccine but rather, should be seen as a temporary fix to buy time.
"The big difference is in the difference between passive immunity and active immunity. All of this is so we can hold out and keep the virus at bay until we can get either a vaccine or what’s called herd immunity, which is enough people who’ve gotten it and developed antibodies that it’s not likely to spread," said Dr. Balasubramanyam.
Baylor joins Houston Methodist and Mount Sinai in New York as one of the first hospitals in the nation to explore plasma donations as a possible treatment.
The hospitals are always looking for more donors.
Currently, Baylor says it's restricting its donor eligibility to patients who have a positive COVID-19 test from a lab. Someone who may have had symptoms, but never actually got tested, will not qualify.
If you fit the criteria and want to donate, click here