Convalescent plasma transfusions could help COVID-19 patients

Apr 16, 2020

They are called convalescent plasma transfusions and they may be able to help a patient suffering from COVID-19.  "This is an old concept, and one that has been used for a hundred years in desperate situations," said Dr. Nancy Nielsen, Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. She discussed the transfusions and other potential treatments, including some experimental trials being conducted locally, during her weekly appearance on WBFO.

Dr. Nancy Nielsen is the Senior Associate Dean for Health Policy at UB's Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Science.

"If we don't have effective treatment that we know works when somebody is desperately sick, what you can do is take the antibodies, the plasma from someone who has had that same disease and recovered, and transfuse that into the sick person," Nielsen said.

"It was done during the Ebola crisis and it is being done now."

Nielsen discussed other COVID-19 treatments being offered locally.

She says some area hospitals are treating patients with Hydroxychloroquine. "I will tell you that the early data that we're seeing from some other countries and some preliminary data from this country are not promising."

A trial is also being conducted using an anti-inflammatory drug that combats rheumatoid arthritis. Another treatment is an anti-viral drug that was used on Ebola patients. Nielsen said, it "probably has the most promise from studies that we know about." 

As for convalescent plasma, Nielsen encourages those who have recovered from COVID-19 to explore making a donation. It comes with the hope, "one donor can save one life," Nielsen said.

"We're very fortunate that Roswell Park is willing to collect plasma of people who have recovered. It's important that people understand who might be appropriate donors."