If you suffer from a virus and recover, for a period of time there are antibodies in your blood that indicate the virus was there. New York is now beginning testing to determine what percentage of the population was hit with the coronavirus, even if they don't realize it was the COVID-19 virus.
The new frontier of the COVID crisis is antibodies. The University at Buffalo's Jacobs Medical School researchers are taking blood plasma samples from recovered COVID patients and putting them into current ill patients. Dr. Sanjay Sethi said it is important to be sure the donors have recovered.
"That's the date when they got better, so we're using that as the point to define it and they have to be at least 14 days away from that. If they are between 14 and 28, then you have to document that the COVID infection is gone. If they are beyond 28 days, then they are ready to be donors," Sethi said.
Infusing plasma from the recovered into the ill is an old treatment, shown by Dr. Emil von Behring's 1901 Nobel Prize for infusing plasma into those sick with diphtheria back in 1891, leading to a cure.
Sethi said there are unknowns, like measuring the levels of antibodies. For the seriously ill of a disease for which there is no sure treatment, he says the risk/benefit ratio leans to the infusion.
Alexandra Hubert is part of that rapidly growing segment of Americans: someone who has recovered from the COVID virus. The 24-year-old phlebotomist and nursing student has agreed to donate plasma from her blood for UB's research in hopes that it will help.
"They don't really have too much research showing that it's 100% going to cure people of COVID, but I definitely think it's worth participating in the research because there's not a lot of people that are recovered from it and healthy enough, I think, to donate yet," Hubert said "So I think that if more people came forward, it would help a lot."
Hubert said she expects to donate this week, just waiting for the researchers to call. Just over a year from now, she expects to be a full-fledged registered nurse, working in pediatrics or maternity.
"This is in no way a proven treatment for COVID," said Sethi. "The thing is it's worked or kind of worked that we know in some data, at least, from all the past years, including some data with SARS-1 and the bird virus. That gives us some confidence that there is a strong possibility that it will work."