At approximately 2:30 p.m. Saturday, the first convalescent plasma therapy in Louisiana was provided to a critically ill COVID-19 patient at Ochsner LSU Health Shreveport Academic Medical Center. The transfused plasma was donated hours earlier by two people at LifeShare Blood Center in Shreveport. Both individuals who donated plasma at LifeShare are fully recovered from COVID-19. “LifeShare is among the first centers in the country to partner with regional hospitals to provide this type of therapy for COVID-19 patients,” says LifeShare Medical Director Dr. Tim Peterson.
“The FDA just released new guidelines allowing us to investigationally use convalescent plasma for patients with moderate to severe COVID-19 infections. The only source of this convalescent plasma is donations from people that have recovered for at least two weeks from COVID-19 and have produced antibodies. As cases are expected to peak in the coming week, LifeShare needs additional convalescent donors who are fully recovered from COVID-19. This is an important step in bridging a gap until a suitable vaccine is developed,” stated Dr. G. E. Ghali, Chancellor of LSU Health Shreveport.
This investigative therapy uses convalescent plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19. It is possible convalescent plasma contains antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) and might be effective against the infection. Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2009 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2004 SRS-CoV-1 epidemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic.
“With the new LSU Health Shreveport Emerging Viral Threat Lab and its upcoming serology testing platform, we are uniquely able to identify potential convalescent plasma donors in collaboration with LifeShare to produce this potentially life saving therapy,” said Dr. Chris Kevil, Vice Chancellor for Research of LSU Health Shreveport.
Although promising, convalescent plasma has yet to be definitively shown to be effective in COVID-19. In addition to the establishment of clinical trials for convalescent plasma therapy, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working with multiple federal partners and academia to open an expanded access protocol to facilitate access to COVID-19 convalescent plasma. For those not eligible to participate in a randomized clinical trial, access is being made available through participation of acute care facilities in an investigational expanded access protocol.