Scientists Test New Way Blood May Help Fight COVID

They're trying to figure out if plasma from recovered patients can prevent the disease
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jun 12, 2020 2:15 PM CDT
Scientists Test New Way Blood May Help Fight COVID
Aubrie Cresswell, 24, donates convalescent plasma at the Blood Bank of Delmarva Christiana Donor Center in suburban Newark, Del. “It’s, I think, our job as humans to step forward and help in society,” said Cresswell who has donated three times and counting.   (New York Blood Center Enterprises via AP)

(Newser) – Survivors of COVID-19 are donating their blood plasma in droves in hopes it helps other patients recover from the coronavirus. And while the jury’s still out, now scientists are testing if the donations might also prevent infection in the first place, per the AP. Thousands of coronavirus patients in hospitals around the world have been treated with so-called convalescent plasma—including more than 20,000 in the US—with little solid evidence so far that it makes a difference. One recent study from China was unclear while another from New York offered a hint of benefit. “We have glimmers of hope,” said Dr. Shmuel Shoham of Johns Hopkins University. With more rigorous testing underway, Shoham is launching a nationwide study asking the next logical question: Could giving survivors' plasma to someone right after a high-risk exposure to the virus stave off illness?

To tell, researchers at Hopkins and 15 other sites will recruit health workers, spouses of the sick, and residents of nursing homes where someone just fell ill and “they’re trying to nip it in the bud,” Shoham said. It’s a strict study: The 150 volunteers will be randomly assigned to get either plasma from COVID-19 survivors that contains coronavirus-fighting antibodies or regular plasma, as is used daily in hospitals, that was frozen prior to the pandemic. Scientists will track if there’s a difference in who gets sick. It if works, survivor plasma could have important ramifications until a vaccine arrives—raising the prospect of possibly protecting high-risk people with temporary immune-boosting infusions every so often.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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