Upstate Medical University seeking recovered COVID-19 patients for emergency clinical trial

Local News

SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — Upstate Medical University is seeking those who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma in an emergency clinical trial.

They believe that this could help the severely ill patients who are battling the disease.

The project is part of the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project. The Food and Drug Administration has approved this project as an Emergency Investigational New Drug.

The theory is that those who have recovered have formed antibodies against COVID-19, which could be given to severe patients to lessen symptoms and speed up recovery. This is according to Timothy Endy, MD, MPH, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Upstate and Dr. Stephen Thomas, Chief of Infectious Disease at Upstate.

If you are 18 years or older, have tested positive for coronavirus and are now 14 days out from your last symptom, contact Upstate Clinical Trials at (315) 464-9869 to arrange a screening appointment.

Upstate is working with the American Red Cross to create the donation process, which will involve a screening and another COVID-19 test.

After the negative test result, Upstate will work with the patient to schedule a plasma donation with the Red Cross.

Once the plasma is taken, the Red Cross will screen it for any other infectious diseases.

This process can take several days, according to Upstate, but the first available plasma from the trial could be available as soon as next week.

The current potential donors were likely diagnosed with coronavirus in early March, according to Endy.

Endy also said that plasma donation is safe for patients because they get to keep all of their “good cells.”

The scientific premise is sound that antibodies can reduce symptoms and hopefully the severity of COVID-19. The unknown with this type of product is currently we don’t know how much antibody we’re actually getting from recovered patients and that’s a question that needs to be answered and we’re hoping to do that. But the risk of getting a unit of plasma, which we do all the time for people who are post-surgical or in need of volume, is very low for any serious side effects and the potential benefit could be great.

Timothy Endy — MD, MPH, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Upstate

According to Thomas, doctors in Wuhan have seen improvements in the severity of coronavirus symptoms in patients who had received convalescent plasma.

“It’s currently all anecdotal,” said Thomas. “There haven’t been any controlled studies yet, but we hope that will change as we get more information.”

Doctors at Upstate plan to collect data and blood samples, with consent, from patients who receive the plasma. This information can be used for a later study, but for now the project is considered an emergency use therapeutic and only a treatment, not a study.

“It’s a good thing to do for what we’re dealing with right now. If we can stop the progression of the disease from having to have someone go onto a ventilator by giving convalescent plasma, that would be a huge impact,” Endy said. “If we could reduce people’s hospital days by three days that would be a huge impact, too.”

According to Thomas, Upstate intends to be the regional resource for the project for any severely ill COVID-19 patients. He stressed that the donation and the transfusion of plasma is safe for the donor and the patient.

“There’s so much public attention on this now and I hope that people who are feeling better and have survived this would really want to help other people,” Endy said.

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