NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 may be able to help those currently ill with the virus. Vanderbilt University Medical Center is recruiting volunteers who have tested positive for COVID-19 and fully recovered to donate plasma as part of a new research study.
The medical center says people who have recovered from the coronavirus have antibodies in their plasma that can attack the virus.
Convalescent plasma is being researched as a possible treatment for patients who have serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections, or those who have been determined to be at high risk of progression to a severe case of the disease.
"There have been reports coming out of other countries that convalescent plasma is beneficial for other patients," said Allison Wheeler, assistant professor of Pathology and Pediatrics and principal investigator of the plasma collection arm of the study. "What Vanderbilt wants to do is demonstrate in a randomized control fashion that truly is the case as opposed to just anecdotal evidence."
Vanderbilt's three-part research program comprises identifying patients who have had COVID-19 infection and survived; collecting plasma from people who have a high antibody titer, or strong immune response and treating patients who currently have COVID-19. The first two parts are in the process of launching now.
Criteria to be eligible includes testing positive for COVID-19, recovering and being at least 14 days from a negative COVID-19 test; patients who tested positive and are at least 28 days free of symptoms if they haven't had a negative test and patients who had clinical symptoms but have never tested for COVID-19. The latter will be tested to prove they have the virus.
Vanderbilt adds volunteers must also meet the general FDA guidelines on blood donation to screen for infectious diseases and risk factors.
"The goal of our trial is truly understanding if this treatment is beneficial for patients with this infection," Wheeler said. "By studying outcomes, we can learn what could help all people with COVID-19. not just our current patients, and help people in the future know more about the use of immune plasma in treatment."
One unit of donated plasma has the potential to help four patients. The donation procedure takes between one and two hours.
Vanderbilt is hoping to enroll 250 volunteers in the study.
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What is COVID-19 (a.k.a. the new coronavirus?)
According to the World Health Organization, coronaviruses (CoV) are a large family of viruses that cause illness ranging from the common cold to more severe diseases. Examples include the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV). A novel coronavirus (nCoV) is a new strain that has not been previously identified in humans. COVID-19 stands for "Coronavirus disease 2019," which is when this strain of the coronavirus was discovered.
What are the symptoms?
The CDC says patients confirmed to have the 2019-nCoV reportedly had mild to severe respiratory illness with:
- Shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
Or at least two of the following symptoms:
- Repeated shaking with chills
- Muscle pain
- Sore throat
- New loss of taste or smell
At this time, the CDC believes symptoms could appear as soon as two days after exposure, or as long as 14 days.
The CDC is recommending "common sense" measures such as:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a cloth face cover when around others.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.