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UPMC has started administering a potential new treatment for COVID-19 from convalescent plasma donations. The treatment involves an infusion of blood from a person who has already recovered from COVID-19 to a critically ill patient with COVID-19.
“It is a therapy that has been used in multiple viral outbreaks going back to the late 1800s with measles, and the 1918 flu pandemic, and used over many years, including even during the initial SARS 1 outbreak,” explained John McDyer, MD, director of UPMC’s Lung Transplantation Translational Research Program and the principal investigator for UPMC’s clinical trial site. “The concept for using convalescent plasma falls under the idea of passive immunity. Individuals who don’t have immunity, get immunity from a source, like blood, that is given to them.”
Part of a national clinical trial, the goal of this program is to learn if blood containing COVID-19 antibodies can reduce the severity of the illness in patients that have received the plasma. UPMC is working with Vitalant to receive blood donations.
“We received a great yield of plasma from our first two donors, and more are on the way to being referred,” said Dr. McDyer. “That enabled us to give our first dose of convalescent plasma to a patient here at UPMC Presbyterian who is critically ill with COVID-19.”
To donate plasma, donors must have had a confirmed case of COVID-19 and have been over their illness for at least three weeks, have antibodies that neutralize the virus detected in their blood, and test negative for the virus. It is anticipated that one plasma donor could help treat two or three patients.
“It’s great to have patients who are reaching out and volunteering and willing to take the time to come in for a screening – and then to take the time to go to Vitalant to donate. We are grateful for these patients helping in this effort,” Dr. McDyer said.
Those interested in donating plasma should email the COVID Convalescent Plasma Pittsburgh Project at C2P3@upmc.edu.