Covenant Health hospitals, including Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge, are testing blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients.
It’s part of a nationwide effort to treat some COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma transfusions as part of a clinical trial. The convalescent plasma is donated by patients who have recovered from COVID-19. As part of an experiment, it is being given to current COVID-19 patients who are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms, Covenant Health announced Friday.
Plasma is the liquid component of blood that contains many useful proteins and antibodies.
“It is commonly used in the daily practice of medicine for treating certain conditions,” said Covenant Health pathologist Mark Williams, a doctor who is the principal investigator for the clinical trial. “Convalescent plasma refers to plasma that has been donated by patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and is likely to contain antibodies to the SARS-CoV 2 virus.”
The clinical trial—“Expanded Access to Convalescent Plasma for the Treatment of Patients with COVID-19”—is sponsored by the Mayo Clinic. The trial includes about 2,000 hospitals and 5,000 physicians nationwide, Covenant Health said.
As a member of Covenant Health, Methodist Medical Center is able to participate. The main purpose is to determine the safety and effectiveness of treating acutely ill COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma.
“Convalescent plasma transfusions have been used effectively in the past to treat other viral infections, and preliminary results indicate that it may be effective for speeding recovery from COVID-19 and possibly saving lives,” Williams said.
Since there is no specific treatment for COVID-19, the Food and Drug Administration approved convalescent plasma for emergency investigational use, and convalescent plasma was first used at a Covenant Health hospital in early May at Cumberland Medical Center in Crossville.
“This particular use of blood plasma is only for hospitalized adult patients who are at least 18 years old showing signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection and who are positive for the SARS-CoV 2 virus,” Williams said. “Any patient admitted to a Covenant Health facility, and who is determined to be eligible, will be given the opportunity to participate in the national protocol and receive this treatment if available.”
While the treatment may help patients already suffering from COVID-19, it has not been proven to be effective at preventing healthy people from getting sick from the disease, and no evidence suggests that it limits the spread of the virus from person to person, Williams said.
Patients who participate in the trial will be asked if they would be willing to donate plasma once they have recovered from their illness.
“Since availability of this treatment relies on donations, it’s our hope that anyone who has recovered from this illness would consider contacting their local blood donation center regarding their recovery from COVID-19 and would donate their plasma for this common cause,” Williams said.
Here are the Covenant Health hospitals participating in the clinical trial:
- Fort Sanders Regional Medical Center
- Parkwest Medical Center
- Methodist Medical Center of Oak Ridge
Other Covenant Health hospitals
- Claiborne Medical Center, Tazewell
- Cumberland Medical Center, Crossville
- Fort Loudoun Medical Center, Lenoir City
- LeConte Medical Center, Sevierville
- Morristown-Hamblen Healthcare System, Morristown
- Roane Medical Center, Harriman