UHealth to Offer Convalescent Plasma with COVID-19 Antibodies
The treatment will be used for seriously ill or at-risk patients
By Richard Westlund
A new initiative by infectious disease experts and researchers with the University of Miami Health System offers convalescent plasma with COVID-19 antibodies as a treatment for patients who are seriously ill from the coronavirus infection or at serious risk of its progression.
“This new program could be a potentially life-saving treatment for patients admitted to the hospital with severe COVID,” said Maria Luisa Alcaide, M.D., associate professor of clinical medicine and director of the Infectious Diseases Research Unit. She is leading the initiative, titled “Use of Convalescent Plasma for Severe COVID-19,” with Shweta Anjan, M.D., assistant professor of clinical medicine.
Under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s national Expanded Access Program, UM clinicians will have access to plasma donated by individuals who have recovered from a COVID-19 infection.
“Their blood contains antibodies that may strengthen the ability of patients to fight this viral infection,” Dr. Anjan said. “This approach has been effective with influenza and other viral infections, including prior coronaviruses.”
After patients have received the plasma, the research team will study the outcomes for a period of one month.
Maria Luisa Alcaide, M.D.
Some Patients Benefit
Initial data from studies using COVID-19 convalescent plasma for the treatment of individuals with severe or life-threatening disease indicated that a single dose showed benefit for some patients, leading to improvement, according to the national program’s website.
“While many researchers are working on COVID-19 vaccines or therapies, there are no approved treatments yet,” Dr. Anjan said. “We are hoping that infusing plasma with COVID-19 antibodies will decrease the viral load on patients. Ideally, this could be done before patients with breathing problems need to go on a mechanical ventilator, so they are not subjected to potential complications.”
Dr. Alcaide said she expects to see an increase in plasma donations as more individuals recover from COVID-19 infections.
“It typically takes about two weeks after an active infection for a positive COVID-19 test to turn negative, although it can be longer,” she said. “At that point, you can apply to make a convalescent plasma donation.”
The University of Miami Health System is partnering with OneBlood, a statewide blood bank, to raise awareness of the program and encourage people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate their plasma. A donor must have confirmed COVID-19 documented by a laboratory test (e.g., nasopharyngeal swab PCR) at the time of illness, and complete resolution of symptoms at least 28 days before donation OR complete resolution of symptoms at least 14 days before donation, and repeat negative results for COVID-19 from a nasopharyngeal swab specimen. For more information, visit OneBlood’s website.
For recipients, the protocol requires the patient or family member to consent to receiving plasma from someone who has recovered from COVID-19.
Clinicians can contact Drs. Alcaide or Anjan at the Infectious Diseases Research Unit to request information about how to obtain convalescent plasma for their patients.
“We can explain the process and address any patient concerns,” Dr. Anjan said.
For more information, email: Covidplasma@med.miami.edu