OKLAHOMA CITY (KFOR) – OU is taking part in a clinical trial that researchers believe can help the most severely ill COVID-19 patients through plasma transfusions from people who have already recovered.
“We really don’t have any proven effective therapy,” said Jordan Metcalf M.D., a pulmonary and critical care specialist at OU Medicine.
That’s why he signed the hospital up for a clinical trial that was approved by the FDA last Friday.
OU is among about 100 other facilities so far that have opted to take part in the trial led by the Mayo Clinic.
The trial takes plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients and transfuses it into patients who are still very sick.
The doctor said people who have recovered likely generated a lot of antibodies to the virus.
Smaller previous trials have shown this convalescent plasma, which is plasma with the antibodies, improves a patient’s status.
“That is to say, if they are on a machine to help them breathe, they tend to get off. If they’re on large amounts of oxygen so that they can get enough oxygen, they tend to wean that down,” Metcalf said.
It has also been shown to help the fever go down, and stop aches and pains, even remove the virus from the blood stream.
There’s not 100-percent certainty of its effectiveness, but Metcalf is confident it will work for those who need it.
To qualify, the patient needs to be suffering anything from shortness of breath, to reliance on a mechanical respirator.
So far, Metcalf learned about potential patients through local healthcare systems.
“The trial is designed so that every patient who signs up and wants to get the plasma, as long as we can find a match, will get the plasma,” he said.
That’s the key factor, and currently the sticking point.
So far, collecting the needed plasma has taken some searching, and that was only for one patient.
The trial will rely on previously confirmed COVID-19 patients who are now recovered to come forward and donate the plasma to places like the Oklahoma Blood Institute.
Tests to find out if there are antibodies in a person who thinks they had COVID-19 but were never technically diagnosed are still in development.
For the time being, they’re only seeking donors who were swabbed while they were sick, and whose test results were positive for infection.
“Our difficulty is that we need a therapy before we have the peak of illness from people who have the illness,” Metcalf said. “We need some of those early people who have recovered from this illness to donate.”
Potential donors can find more information at www.uscovidplasma.org.
Recovered COVID-19 patients can register as potential convalescent plasma donors through the Oklahoma Blood Institute’s Registry at my.bio-linked.org.