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Blood donations from recovered coronavirus patients sought

By Staff | Apr 20, 2020

As of today, Lee Health is an official site participating in the Mayo Clinic’s COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Study.

Lee Health is actively seeking blood donors who have fully-recovered from COVID-19 – meaning they previously tested positive and are now symptom-free – to participate in the study.

“Convalescent plasma refers to blood plasma collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19. That plasma is then used to treat others with advanced illness,” Lee Health Chief Patient Care Officer Lisa Sgarlata on April 16. “After donation, the blood is processed in the lab to obtain the plasma component. The patient is transfused with the donor’s convalescent plasma, which contains antibodies that may attack the virus and may help the patient recover more rapidly.”

According to a Lee Health release, Mayo Clinic is the lead institution providing coordinated access to investigational convalescent plasma for hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19, or those who are at risk for the development for severe illness as judged by their doctors, and was designated to do so by the Food and Drug Administration on April 3.

Lee Health officials said enrollment in the study is based on the protocol’s preset exclusion and inclusion criteria and on the availability of an appropriate blood-type matched unit of convalescent plasma. Being admitted to Lee Health with COVID-19 does not guarantee a patient will qualify for the trial, and even if a patient does qualify, because of probable limited convalescent plasma supplies, the patient may not be enrolled in the study and receive convalescent plasma. All participants will sign informed consent as required by the Mayo’s Institutional Review Board, a committee tasked with protecting the rights and welfare of human subjects.

Sgarlata reiterated that a known safe and effective treatment for the virus is unavailable.

“As in any clinical research study, it is unknown if the treatment will be therapeutic and there are risks involved,” she said. “However, based on its use to treat other viral infections, researchers hypothesize that the plasma from recovered patients may contain antibodies that may help fight the disease.”

Lee Health said that in order to launch the study, it needs a supply of convalescent plasma and is asking patients who have tested positive for the virus and recovered to donate blood at one of its donation sites. The blood will be processed to make the convalescent plasma required for the clinical trial. All donors will be screened with a nasal swab test for SARS-CoV-2. The test result must be negative before proceeding.

Lee Health officials said they were “honored” to be included in the study, and that any recovered patients can contact their blood centers at COVID.plasma@leehealth.org to volunteer. All donations collected will stay in the community and will be used exclusively for Lee Health patients.