Now Available: Access Biologicals COVID-19 (15 x 1mL) Member Panel
People who have recovered from the disease have antibodies that might help those still suffering from it.
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Editor’s Note: The Atlantic is making vital coverage of the coronavirus available to all readers. Find the collection here.
Tatiana Prowell knew it was a long shot, but she didn’t know what else to do. Her brother-in-law’s father, the man she knew affectionately as “Papa Doc,” was in the ICU with COVID-19, and things were not looking good. “HELP!,” she tweeted late on Wednesday night: She needed to find someone who had recovered from COVID-19, and then ask for their blood.
The day before Prowell tweeted her plea, the Food and Drug Administration began allowing doctors to use plasma, the yellow fluid in which blood cells are suspended, as a Hail Mary to treat very ill COVID-19 patients. The idea of using plasma from survivors, also known as convalescent-plasma therapy, dates back to the late 19th century. Doctors have transfused the blood of recovered patients into those still sick with the 1918 flu, measles, polio, chickenpox, SARS, and Ebola—to varying degrees of success. Given the dearth of treatments for COVID-19, convalescent plasma has gained new prominence. The blood of survivors, the thinking goes, contains proteins called antibodies that can neutralize the coronavirus. Early data from very small numbers of COVID-19 patients in China show some promise. But the first hurdle is finding the recovered patients who can give plasma.
“We can’t go to that warehouse and get the 100 bottles on the shelf,” says Liise-anne Pirofski, the chief of the infectious-disease department at the Montefiore Medical Center, in New York. So doctors, scientists, blood banks, and government agencies have begun mobilizing to collect, distribute, and study plasma from COVID-19 survivors. The advantage of plasma is that you don’t need to develop a vaccine or treatment from scratch. But in these early days of the pandemic, when the number of recovered and confirmed patients is still relatively small, finding them will take time. The irony is that the bigger the pandemic gets, the easier finding donors will be.
Prowell, who had been following the prospects of convalescent plasma closely because she is also a doctor at Johns Hopkins University, was overwhelmed—in a good way—by the response to her tweet. She got hundreds of replies from people who offered to donate or knew someone who might. “That’s very powerful, but it’s obviously not the right way to do this at scale,” she told me. “We’re going to have millions of cases.” The family is still looking for a donor who fits all the criteria.
The way to do this at scale is a national network that connects donors, patients, and their doctors. Such an effort began in late February, when Arturo Casadevall, an immunologist at Johns Hopkins, published an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal suggesting the use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19. He started connecting interested doctors, virologists, immunologists, and blood-banking experts, who all came together to launch the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.
The movement has gained traction. This week, New York announced that it would be the first state to try convalescent-plasma therapy, and the New York Blood Center, a major blood bank, began collecting plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19.
For now, this plasma is going to hospitals in New York, which are using it on a case-by-case basis. A spokesperson at Mount Sinai told me that the hospital expects to transfuse its first patient this weekend. Mount Sinai’s call for donors got thousands of responses, which an army of medical students is now sifting through.
A single plasma donation from a COVID-19 survivor could go to multiple patients. Donating plasma is similar to donating whole blood, except the red blood cells are separated out by a machine and returned to the donor. “We can do two to three people from one donor,” says Bruce Sachais, the chief medical officer at the New York Blood Center. But the majority of these interested donors will not be suitable for one reason or another: The criteria, set by the FDA, suggest that donors should have had no symptoms for at least 14 days. They should have had a lab test confirming COVID-19, which is hard to get now and was even harder to get when the donors would have first gotten sick, several weeks ago. And, as with normal blood donation, patients and donors have to be matched by blood type. Prowell, for example, is looking for someone who is A-positive or AB-positive for Papa Doc.
Michael J. Joyner, a doctor at the Mayo Clinic, likened this phase to the “craft brewing” of convalescent-plasma therapy. It’s available at only a few academic centers, and doctors are reliant on personal connections to recruit donors. Getting to the “national-brewery model,” he says, requires involving bigger players. The FDA could help identify donors, and a network of national blood banks could send COVID-19 plasma to hospitals in small cities and towns. Eventually, pharmaceutical companies might be interested in pooling and purifying plasma down to a concentrated dose of antibodies—at which point convalescent plasma truly would be a standardized product you pull off the shelf.
All of this, of course, is contingent on plasma actually working against COVID-19. The clinical trials that are planned in the U.S. will focus on patients who are less ill—ideally those not in the ICU. Some evidence suggests that the antibodies in plasma are useful early on in the immune response, but less so once a patient has reached the stage of organ failure that requires hospitalization. No one knows why, Pirofski told me, but one reason could be that antibodies help prevent the virus from spreading from the nose and throat into the lungs.
At Mayo and Montefiore, the trials will be focused on people early into their infections. The Johns Hopkins trial will enroll people who have been exposed to COVID-19—maybe because a family member tested positive—but who do not yet have symptoms. If plasma can lessen the severity of COVID-19, it could be key to alleviating the strain on hospitals. “The idea is if we give this to people who have respiratory symptoms like cough and chest pain, maybe they won’t require supplemental oxygen, won’t require intubation,” Pirofski said.
Papa Doc has gotten slightly better in the days since Prowell tweeted for help. But he’s still sedated and on a ventilator; no visitors are allowed, due to the risk of infection. “That is so emotionally excruciating,” says Jason Constantine, Prowell’s brother-in-law. His father doesn’t know that they are trying to find him a plasma donor or that hundreds of strangers have taken an interest in him. But they are still looking for the right stranger who might be able to help.
Researchers at UC San Diego Health report the first scientific evidence that strongly associates loss of taste and smell with COVID-19.
“Based on our study, if you have smell and taste loss, you are more than 10 times more likely to have COVID-19 infection than other causes of infection. The most common first sign of a COVID-19 infection remains fever, but fatigue and loss of smell and taste follow as other very common initial symptoms,” said Carol Yan, MD, an otolaryngologist and head and neck surgeon. “We know COVID-19 is an extremely contagious virus. This study supports the need to be aware of smell and taste loss as early signs of COVID-19.”
Have you recently been diagnosed with “active” (acute) Lyme disease? Do you want to help others? We have a unique plasma donation program just for you. Your plasma is needed for further research by researchers and diagnostic companies to research the disease as well as to manufacture your plasma into the controls for test kits to diagnose others.
Participants will donate plasma which is very similar to donating blood like at a red cross but you can do this twice in a 7 day period because you get your red blood cells back thru this process/procedure. If you qualify you will be compensated $500 each time you donate and all/any travel related expenses are pre-paid by us so you can participate at no cost to you.
To learn more visit us at http://www.accessclinical.com or call us at 800-510-4003 to speak to an agent today about the program.
Get the latest information on the current COVID-19 pandemic directly from the CDC, http://www.CDC.GOV or follow the link above for the latest statistics and breaking information for your area.
Stay safe everyone.
We are currently searching for patients who have SLE to participate by donating plasma for research and for manufacturing into controls for test kits. Your plasma is needed to help others be diagnosed, without plasma donors the very test kit(s) there aided your physician in your diagnosis runs the risk of going on back order hindering the timely and accurate diagnosis of other patients.
Plasma is the clear honey colored component of the red blood cells which house various nutrients as well as the antibodies for your diagnosis. These antibodies are separated during the plasmapheresis process and then you receive your red cells back thru the donation. Plasma is very similar to donating blood say at a blood drive or the red cross but you can do it more frequently. When you donate whole blood you can only do so every 56 days (8 weeks) as it takes your body a while to rebuild the red blood cells that were donated.
Because you get the red cells back thru plasmapheresis you can safely donate 2x in a 7 day period as your body replenishes plasma within a 24-48 hour period. Some patients have said that when they donate plasma they get temporary relief of their symptoms because we have removed some of the antibodies from their body in turn giving them a bit of relief.
We are currently looking for those who have the SLE/Lupus diagnosis and have high levels of the dsDNA antibody (Double-Stranded) for this program. To learn more and to inquire please visit us at the blow link or call us at 800-510-4003 to discuss it further. All of our programs are HIPAA compliant (Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act) and your information is never shared with outside sources.
Visit us today at http://www.accessclinical.com to learn more.
“Basic donor Requirements”
Plasma is commonly given to trauma, burn and shock patients, as well as people with severe liver disease or multiple clotting factor deficiencies. It helps boost the patient’s blood volume, which can prevent, shock and helps with blood clotting. Plasma carries proteins, hormones and nutrients to different cells in your body. These include growth hormones that help your muscles and bones grow, as well as clotting factors that help you stop bleeding when you get a cut. Some of the nutrients it helps deliver are minerals like potassium and sodium.
What we need diseased/specialty plasma donors for is your plasma has the antibodies for your condition. These antibodies are used as reagents as positive controls for the very test kits that are being used to diagnose other patients such as yourself. Researchers and Laboratories have or can created the negative controls, however they need antibody rich plasma that has these antibodies to create the controls for the positive side. Once they have both the negative and positive controls that meet their internal validation the newest and best test kits can be manufactured and available to healthcare providers, hospitals and laboratories to make earlier diagnosis’ of their patients. Without donors donating plasma in these kinds of programs these very test kits run a high risk of going on back-order and not being available when healthcare providers need them to diagnose others with these conditions.
If you have been diagnosed with one or more of the below conditions you can help medical research and earn money while doing so. The plasm donation itself only takes about 30-40 minutes to complete and because you get your red blood cells back during the process you are able to safely donate 2x per 7 days, whereas if you were to donate whole blood you can only do that every 56 days (8 weeks). Plasma is the clear/yellowish part of the blood cells and it rebuilds in your system within a 24 hour period that’s why the FDA deems it safe enough to do it more frequently.
Currently we have a need for patients with the current conditions:-
We are currently looking for participants to help researchers and the diagnostic community by donating plasma. We have unique plasma donation programs for you to participate in and you are compensated for doing so. Plasma is a crucial component in the research & diagnostic communities as well as in the manufacturing of the very test kits that were used in aiding your healthcare provider in your diagnosis.
Without participants like yourself, physicians, laboratories, hospitals and research centers will not have access to these test kits as they will go on back order without antibody rich plasma to create these test kits. Since plasma is only a small component of the red blood cells you don’t have to wait 56 days to donate again. With plasma you can safely 2x in a 7 day period.
We need participants who have antibodies to Crohn’s disease (ANCA/ASCA) for this particular program.
Basic donor qualifications:-