A potential breakthrough in the treatment of COVID-19 has come as UMass Memorial Medical Center in Worcester reports promising results with its first blood plasma treatment of a seriously ill coronavirus patient this past Saturday.
"The ability to have a treatment that works this quickly and this dramatically is just a huge weapon in the arsenal," said Dr. Jonathan Gerber, chief of hematology/oncology and medical director of the hospital's cancer center. "We actually started to see some signs of promise by Saturday night, and certainly within 24 hours, that the patient that had almost required really maximum settings on a ventilator was able to come down substantially."
The difficulty is the donor pool is limited at this time.
Donors, like UMass Dr. Justin Maykel, must have had a positive COVID-19 test and be at least 14-28 days recovered to have built up enough antibodies in their blood to help.
"The virus that is already rampant in the body, these antibodies will seek out and destroy," said Gerber, "and really can bring them back from the brink."
Gerber says a plasma donation is very safe, similar to a typical blood donation, but it takes about an hour and a half.
A single donation can generally help two to three people.
"The treatment itself is actually over a hundred years old," said Gerber. "Obviously new to COVID, but used in other viruses, including the 1918 flu epidemic."
Gerber says this treatment has already shown promising results in China, Italy and New York — providing hope where previously, it had been hard to come by.
"This situation gives everybody that has been infected with COVID a chance to be a hero," Gerber said.
If you have tested positive for COVID-19, have been recovered for at least 14-28 days, and are willing to donate plasma, you can email the UMass Medical Registry for COVID-19 Plasma Donors at firstname.lastname@example.org.