Is convalescent plasma transfusion beneficial for COVID-19 patients?


"No medicine can 'Fix it.'"

ODESSA, Texas (Big 2 / Fox 24) – President Donald Trump mentioned over the weekend the Food and Drug Administration has given emergency authorization to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma. Area doctors say its a treatment option that has been in use for a couple of months now, but it is the first time the results of its effectiveness have been publicized.

Covalescent plasma refers to the protein portion of the blood that contains the antibodies to a certain disease. Doctors say there is still so much unknown about its benefits and side effects.

“When we look at somethig like convalescent plasma, the important thing to remember is that it’s not going to be the ‘Be all, end all.’ It is one of many things that we can use to help support the body in the healing process,” explained Dr. Rohith Saravanan with Odessa Regional Medical Center.

Saravanan says the patient selection criteria has been favoring those that are rapidly progressing in the disease, but have good changes of recovery. Like with any treatment or procedure, it works for some and not for others. There is still not enough data at this time to support widespread effectiveness.

“Well, do we know enough about these antibodies? How long do they last after someone recovers? How effective are they against a slight variant of a strain? We don’t know the answer to those questions, and that’s why we’re having mixed results in regard to effectiveness,” said Saravanan.

Dr. Timothy Benton with Midland Memorial says the effectiveness also depends on variables out of their control. 

“We’ll continue what we’re doing, maybe ramp up some, but it also depends on the availability of the plasma, too,” explained Benton. “And as it’s become more available, maybe we’ve seen a little better results.”

For someone to be able to donate convalescent plasma for COVID-19, there are currently FDA guidelines on who can donate.

  • They must have been diagnosed with COVID-19
  • Enough time must have passed to deem them “recovered”
  • They must prove enough antibodies are in their system by taking a test

“There can be protein mismatches, ones that need their own tests for, that can still cause reactions. So that is the biggest side effect we need to watch for.” said Saravanan.

The National Institute of Health has a way of listing their recommendations of treatments. Currently, it states there is insufficient data for the panel to either recommend for, or against, the use of convalescent plasma. For reference, drug Remdesivir and ventilators have made the list as recommendations by the panel.

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