Coronavirus Plasma Treatments Begin in Major Texas Hospital System

TOPSHOT - A person (L), who has recovered from the COVID-19 coronavirus infection, donates plasma in Zouping in China's eastern Shandong province on February 28, 2020, aimed at curing infected patients in severe and critical conditions. - China reported 44 more deaths from the novel coronavirus epidemic on February 28 …
File Photo: Photo by STR/AFP via Getty Images

HOUSTON, Texas — Houston Methodist Hospital received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin utilizing plasma transfusions to treat COVID-19 patients. The FDA approved the major Houston hospital system as the first academic medical center in the nation to transfuse donated plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient into a critically ill one.

“Convalescent serum therapy could be a vital treatment route, because unfortunately there is relatively little to offer many patients except supportive care, and the ongoing clinical trials are going to take a while. We don’t have that much time,” Eric Salazar, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator and a physician-scientist in the Department of Pathology and Genomic Medicine at the Houston Methodist Hospital and Research Institute said in a written statement.

The FDA fast-tracked the approval to the Houston hospital system on Saturday as the national COVID-19 death toll climbed over the 2,000 mark.

An individual who is sick with COVID-19 and recovers has blood drawn and screened for virus-neutralizing antibodies. Following identification of those with high titers of neutralizing antibody, serum containing these virus-neutralizing antibodies can be administered in a prophylactic manner to prevent infection in high-risk cases, such as vulnerable individuals with underlying medical conditions, health care providers, and individuals with exposure to confirmed cases of COVID-19. (Image: American Society for Clinical Investigation)

“An individual who is sick with COVID-19 and recovers has blood drawn and screened for virus-neutralizing antibodies. Following identification of those with high titers of neutralizing antibody, serum containing these virus-neutralizing antibodies can be administered in a prophylactic manner to prevent infection in high-risk cases, such as vulnerable individuals with underlying medical conditions, health care providers, and individuals with exposure to confirmed cases of COVID-19.” — American Society for Clinical Investigation

“Houston Methodist physician-scientists began recruiting blood plasma donors on Friday from among the approximately 250 patients who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at Houston Methodist hospitals,” Houston Methodist officials stated. “Willing donors were immediately identified, who each give a quart of blood plasma in a procedure much like donating whole blood. Plasma from someone who has recovered from COVID-19 contains antibodies made by the immune system and used to kill the virus.”

The therapy, known as convalescent serum therapy, has been around for more than a century, officials stated. It was utilized during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, the diphtheria outbreak in the 1929s, a flesh-eating bacteria epidemic in the 1930s, and at other times of infectious disease outbreaks.

The efficacy of the treatment varies, it is based on the theory that the immunity developed in a recovered patient can be transferred from a healthy person to a sick patient. A study conducted in China published in the Journal of the American Medical Association this wee suggests the treatment may be beneficial in fighting Coronavirus infections.

“Here at Houston Methodist, we have the capability, the expertise and the patient base from our health care system, and we feel obligated to try this therapy,” said Houston Methodist President and CEO Marc Boom.  “If an infusion of convalescent serum can help save the life of a critically ill patient, then applying the full resources of our blood bank, our expert faculty, and our academic medical center is incredibly worthwhile and important to do.”

The first recovered COVID-19 patient to donate plasma was an individual from the Houston metropolitan area who has been in good health for more than two weeks,” officials stated. “The plasma was transfused into a COVID-19 patient on Saturday evening at Houston Methodist Hospital.”

Health officials in New York are about to begin recruiting plasma donors in New York City in the next few days, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced in a press conference. That recruitment is expected to focus on the heavily hit New York City suburb of New Rochelle, Houston Methodist reported.

The latest report from the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University states that there are currently 60,679 patients who tested positive for COVID-19 as of early Monday morning. Of those, 1,026 patients have died. More than half of the confirmed patients are reported to be in New York City (33,768) resulting in 776 deaths.

Conversely, Texas is currently reporting 2,833 COVID-19 confirmations and 38 deaths. Harris County (Houston) currently leads the state with 526 reported confirmed cases. Harris County reported four deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins website.

“Under FDA guidelines, Houston Methodist’s convalescent serum therapy treatment is classified as an emergency investigational new drug protocol (eIND) that requires FDA approval for each patient infused with donated convalescent serum,” hospital officials reported. “Houston Methodist physician scientists will seek additional FDA approval for follow-up studies, possibly a multicenter national trial on the effectiveness of convalescent serum therapy against the COVID-19 virus.”

Bob Price serves as associate editor and senior news contributor for the Breitbart Texas-Border team. He is an original member of the Breitbart Texas team. Price is a regular panelist on Fox 26 Houston’s What’s Your Point? Sunday-morning talk show. Follow him on Twitter @BobPriceBBTX and Facebook.

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