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June 4, 2020

COVID-19 Survivors Blood Plasma Might Help Current Patients

From the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak, many researchers had hoped that convalescent plasma—that is, the blood plasma from those previously infected which carries antibodies to the disease—might  be able to boost the ability of those with a severe case of the coronavirus to fight it more effectively. There was also some evidence that might help keep people who are moderately ill from having a more severe illness.

Prisma Midlands was one of many hospitals that has begun utilizing blood plasma therapy to treat its COVID-19 patients once it was given investigative treatment approval by the FDA, partnering with The Blood Connection, a local non-profit, to collect donations.

“When the FDA announced they would accept INDs (emergency use) for plasma therapy, we at Prisma Midlands stood up a team that would vet patients,” explains Dr. Helmut Albrecht, Chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at USC and a physician at Palmetto Health USC Medical Group. “We were ready early and got started on Easter weekend, about two weeks before anyone else in the state. We then used our research testing to clear the early donors for donation as well as organizing the first blood drives in South Carolina with The Blood Connection.”

“It took a village to stand it up for us but, at this point, [the process] is quite simple.”

Albrecht says the FDA has set up a national registry for hospitals interested in using the therapy and, once registered, individual physicians who order plasma for COVID-19 treatment have to register themselves and the patient who will be treated. The procedure is outlined here.

“It is pretty self-explanatory. We helped set it up at [a few other hospitals] and would be happy to talk others through it,” the doctor offers.

The therapy is now part of the standard care practice at Prisma Midlands, with over 100 courses already delivered to patients and over 300 courses already donated.

For more information, email Albrecht or Beth Morgan at SCHA.

For additional information about The Blood Connection and plasma donation, here is a simple one-pager from the organization as well as a potential donor guide.