Can blood from former COVID-19 patients help others recover? U. of C. launches study

The University of Chicago Medicine is looking for 10 people to help investigate convalescent plasma therapy, which has been used for more than a century in fights against measles, influenza, MERS and SARS.

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The University of Chicago Medicine Center For Care and Discovery

Sun-Times file photo

If you’ve recovered from COVID-19, the University of Chicago wants to hear from you.

Researchers at University of Chicago Medicine have launched a clinical trial to study if blood plasma from people who’ve recovered from the disease brought on by the novel coronavirus can be used to help those still suffering from the virus.

“Basically, it relies on the principle of passive immunity, where you want to take plasma from a person who has recovered from the disease — [who] likely has anti-virus antibodies —and then transfuse it into a person who’s currently sick with the disease in the hopes of making them recover,” said Dr. Maria Lucia Madariaga, the study’s principal investigator. “Right now, the preliminary data coming out from China indicate that it is a safe and effective therapy.”

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The treatment, known as convalescent plasma therapy, has been used for more than a century and has previously been employed in fights against measles, influenza, MERS and SARS.

Madariaga and Dr. Patrick Wilson, the study’s co-investigator, are looking for 10 people who have recovered from COVID-19. Prospective plasma donors, however, must be symptom-free for at least 28 days.

The four-week period, Wilson said, was established to ensure that potential donors no longer carry the virus while allowing them to build up antibodies.

“Twenty-eight days, it’s a safe bet that they’ll be, No. 1, no longer infected or infectious. No. 2, is this gives time for their immune system to build up the best [concentration] of antibodies,” Wilson said. “The amount of antibody that’s against the virus will have peaked at 28 days and so that’s the best time to get the serum.”

Plasma is the liquid component of blood. When people are infected with a virus, their immune system produces antibodies to destroy it. Transferring plasma containing those antibodies from a person who recovered from COVID-19 to a person still sick with the virus could give that person a better chance at recovery.

Eligible persons who are interested in donating plasma can contact University of Chicago Medicine at (773) 702-5526 or plasma@uchospitals.edu.

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