UTHealth, Memorial Hermann seek plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients

FILE PHOTO: View of a blood plasma bag from a donor during the blood donation. ( Photo by Amphol Thongmueangluang/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images )

UTHealth and Memorial Hermann are seeking plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19.

Physicians at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) are investigating an experimental therapy for use at Memorial Hermann to help patients recover from COVID-19.

The therapy involves transfusing plasma from virus survivors into critically ill patients.

They are asking anyone in the Greater Houston area who has recovered from COVID-19 and been symptom-free for at least two weeks to fill out this form to determine if they qualify to donate plasma and potentially save lives.

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UTHealth and Memorial Hermann are partnering with Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center to screen and collect plasma. Anyone interested can fill out the form, and if qualifications are met, they’ll be asked to go to the Texas Medical Center to provide a blood sample for testing.

UTHealth says not everyone will qualify to donate and not all viable plasma will be a match for the patients who need it, so they need to receive donations from as many people as possible.

To qualify, you must:

   · Be at least 18 years of age

   · Be in overall good health, without any cold or flu symptoms

   · Have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis documented by a laboratory test       

   · Be fully recovered from COVID-19, with no symptoms for at least 14 days before the donation

According to UTHealth, plasma can be full of antibodies among those who have recovered from COVID-19, and the plasma can be transfused to those who are sick to help them overcome the COVID-19 illness.

“To fight an infection, you need antibodies to track down and kill the virus,” said Henry Wang, MD, MS, professor and executive vice chair of research in the Department of Emergency Medicine with McGovern Medical School at UTHealth. “People who are critically ill from the COVID-19 virus often don’t have the antibodies needed to fight the virus. Using this strategy called ‘convalescent plasma,’ we transfuse the antibodies from surviving victims in hopes that it will attack the virus and boost recovery.”

The therapy hasn’t been officially tested in randomized clinical trials, but Wang says convalescent blood plasma has been successfully used in other infection outbreaks dating back to more than 100 years ago, including the Spanish flu pandemic of 1918, measles, SARS, and Ebola.

UTHealth and Memorial Hermann have joined the Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program led by the Mayo Clinic. UT Health says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration designated the program for academic medical centers across the country to allow access to the investigational therapy because there are no other viable treatment options for COVID-19.

RELATED: Mayo Clinic wants recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma to help those still battling the disease

Other faculty from McGovern Medical School at UTHealth who are part of the convalescent plasma program include Bela Patel, MD, vice dean of healthcare quality and division director for critical care medicine, who is the principal investigator of the UTHealth program site, and Luis Ostrosky, MD, professor of medicine and epidemiology and vice chair of healthcare quality. At Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Ostrosky is the medical director for epidemiology and Patel is the executive medical director of critical care.

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