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UTSW is Building Up a Plasma Supply to Fight COVID-19

Recovered patients in DFW can donate their plasma to be used to boost others' immune systems.

UT Southwestern has plans to fight COVID-19 using the plasma of recovered patients here in DFW. As the numbers of recovered individuals grow, it could be serve as a way to treat those with severe symptoms.

The plan is to use plasma with antibodies from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, giving a boost to patients’ immune systems as they fight the virus. The treatment has been used for 100 years, and a similar process was used to treat the Spanish Flu in 1919. But for COVID-19, there have yet to be any solid trials for the use of plasma against the virus, so the FDA has approved it for an investigational therapy role for the critically ill.

If a patient has been struggling with symptoms for a long period of time, and has been intubated, they may qualify for the treatment. But first, the medical center has to connect with secure donors.

According to the FDA, those who have received a positive COVID-19 test and have recovered with no symptoms for 14 days  and have another test to show they are negative for the virus are eligible to donate. Other patients who have no symptoms for 28 days and don’t have a second test to verify are also eligible. But these regulations are constantly changing and may change again.

Dr. Nicole De Simone, an assistant professor in the department of pathology at UTSW, is working to build that donor base. Working with Carter Blood Care, they are identifying patients who may qualify based on their COVID-19 diagnosis and their medical history. Because the virus didn’t hit Dallas until a couple of weeks ago, the number of people who have cleared the waiting period is still low, but as more patients recover, the donor list will grow. 

Questions still remain about whose plasma will do best. More research will be required to determine if the plasma of those with positive tests and mild symptoms will be better than the plasma from those who felt the full force of the disease. “At this moment in time, ther is not good standard antibody test,” De Simone says. “Each of the trials has their own test which are not available for mass distribution.”

Right now, the project is in the implementation stage, and staff are trying to connect with and locate those who have tested positive so that they will be ready to donate when they have cleared the time and symptom hurdles.  

 The donation program is for any patient, not just UTSW. “This is for the community,” De Simone says. “We felt like there might be a need and our goal is to help any patient in need.”   

 Experts say Dallas’ COVID-19 patient numbers will peak in late April or early May, but De Simone is positive about the potential for plasma treatment. “I am pretty hopeful, and even if the evidence is not amazing, it is still is promising.”

To learn more about qualifications and acquiring donated plasma, learn more here.

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