Rockledge Medical Center tests plasma treatment


The use of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients’ blood is being tested at Rockledge Medical Center for use as a treatment in the fight against the virus for others by Infectious Disease Specialist Dr. Saima Abbas.

 While a vaccine for COVID-19 may be months away, the hospital, as a partner with OneBlood, already is providing convalescent plasma treatments for appropriate patients.

The plasma treatments were administered to two patients April 22 with positive initial results, said Charles Biondo, the hospital’s laboratory director.  It may take one to two weeks to see the full impact of the treatment, he said.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this will save lives,” Abbas said.

People who recover from the infection often develop antibodies that remain in the plasma portion which can be given to patients with moderate to severe symptoms to target and neutralize the virus.

The treatment is considered experimental but has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for use on an emergency basis for the sickest COVID-19 patients in the Intensive Care Unit and for clinical trials, Abbas said.

Eligible plasma donors must meet three criteria:

Prior diagnosis of COVID-19 documented by an FDA-approved laboratory test.

Must be symptom-free for at least 14 days prior to donation.

Must have a negative FDA-approved test or complete resolution of symptoms at least 28 days prior to donation.

Once identified, donors complete a pre-donation form through OneBlood, which contacts them within 24 to 48 hours to verify that they have met the criteria and to schedule a collection of blood. The plasma from the blood, after additional testing, can be transfused to an infected patient within 24 hours.

The next step is obtaining authorization from the FDA for emergency use for individual cases.

Currently patients that are hospitalized are receiving supportive care to treat their symptoms but “there are no available medications specifically attacking the virus,” Abbas said.

The key is to try to give convalescent plasma treatment to patients earlier in the course of the disease and ideally before they require the use of a respirator.