UConn Health to use plasma testing for potential coronavirus treatment


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)– In an effort to combat COVID-19, UConn Health is looking to recovered patients of coronavirus to donate their blood for potential treatments.

In a statement, UConn Health announced Wednesday that they are launching a program that uses convalescent plasma from employees who have recovered from COVID-19 to administer to patients suffering from the illness in hopes of helping their bodies fight the disease.

UConn Health had previously announced they were investigating the use of the plasma in the blood for those with severe or life-threatening COVID-19. They ask those who volunteer to have had a positive test for COVID-19, be asymptomatic for 14 days, and have a following negative test.

After the donation, a patient with coronavirus will be given the donor’s plasma, which “contains the antibodies that could potentially attack the virus and may help patients recover more rapidly.”

The antibodies the now-healthy carry inside them may be the key to helping those currently sick.

“It’s using plasma from individuals who had Covid-19, and they were strong and were able to fight it, and fully recover from Covid-19,” explained Dr. Danyal Ibrahim, Trinity Health’s Regional Chief Quality Officer.

Trinity Health of New England is one of four healthcare systems that just got FDA approval to start testing that plasma on coronavirus patients.

“At least two studies have shown that it’s making a difference, especially for those who are critically ill,” said Dr. Ibrahim.

Trinity Hospitals like St. Francis in Hartford have already tested a thousand people who were positive for Covid-19. The first coronavirus patient in the study is receiving blood plasma from a donor who has recovered from the virus.

“The majority of them likely had mild symptoms and recovered,” Dr. Ibrahim said. “So we’re going to reach out to that group.”

They are accepting other volunteers as well, and this is not something far off in the future.

“We hope to start collecting plasma from donors as quickly as tomorrow,” said  Dr. Latha Dulipsingh, the Chair of Trinity Health’s Institutional Review Board. “We should be able to deliver it to recipients by next week.”

This has already been tried in hospitals in China. One reported an experiment with five coronavirus patients.

“They were all critically ill on a ventilator. They were given the plasma and all of them showed improvement within days,” said Dr. Ibrahim. “Three of them went home and two of them were still in the hospital.”

If the Trinity Health and UConn Health study goes well, other hospitals around the country would be able to quickly start doing the same thing.

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