Mercy Iowa City has enrolled in a federally approved study to help understand the benefits of convalescent plasma for patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The Iowa City-based hospital announced on Tuesday it had recently enrolled in the program to collect plasma from those who have recovered from the novel coronavirus and administered it to patients who currently are diagnosed as having the virus.
Called convalescent plasma therapy, the process hopes to help patients fighting a virus by using antibodies in blood created by an immune system that has fought off that specific kind of infection before. This process also has been used to treat patients of other infectious diseases, such as Ebola.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently approved the program, called the Expanded Access Program for Convalescent Plasma for the Treatment of Patients with COVID-19. The administration also named the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., as the central Institutional Review Board for the study
Many details of the enrollment into the program still are being worked out, as Mercy Iowa City just enrolled in the past few days, said spokeswoman Margaret Reese during Tuesday’s coronavirus news conference with Johnson County officials.
According to the study’s website, hospitalized patients are eligible to receive convalescent plasma if they have a have a lab-confirmed COVID-19 positive test and are experiencing severe or life-threatening symptoms as a result of the virus.
Mercy Iowa City officials could not say when they expect to begin offering this treatment to their patients, as there a limited study basis for those hospitals enrolled in the program.
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For patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma for this study, they must be symptom-free for two weeks after testing positive for the coronavirus. That test must be confirmed by their provider, who then will refer them to donate.
Reese said the hospital will direct donors who meet the criteria and have been referred by their doctor to a Mississippi Valley Blood Center donation site.
According to the Mayo Clinic, COVID-19 convalescent plasma has not shown clear clinical benefit in patients affected by the disease, and its unknown if this treatment will actually help those infected by the virus. However, “this is one of the only treatments that we have at present.”
“We hope this will make a difference for some of our patients,” Reese said.
The University of Iowa Health Care reported last week it had started treating severe cases of COVID-19 with donated plasma from recovered patients as part of a new trial.
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