FDA Okays Historic Blood Treatment for COVID; Clinical Trials to Use Antibodies From Recovered Patients

As the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) works to facilitate expedited access to several investigative drug interventions to treat COVID-19 patients, one particularly promising treatment is now set to enter clinical trials in New York.

The convalescent plasma treatment involves drawing blood plasma out of an individual who has recovered from and built up an immunity to COVID-19, testing the blood for the related antibody, and then injecting it into a sick patient so that the antibody can theoretically attack the virus for its new host.

“Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, 2003 SARS-CoV-1 epidemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic,” writes the FDA.

“Although promising, convalescent plasma has not been shown to be effective in every disease studied,” they continued. “It is therefore important to determine through clinical trials, before routinely administering convalescent plasma to patients with COVID-19, that it is safe and effective to do so.”

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New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said that it was a treatment he was very interested in pursuing as he tries to face down one of the largest outbreaks in the US.

The treatment will now be made available to those suffering severe or life-threatening symptoms of COVID-19 under the FDA’s new emergency drug application procedure.

New York health officials are hoping to recruit COVID patients from New Rochelle—ground zero for the state’s infection and the area with the largest cohort of people who have recovered—to see if any of them would be willing and viable donors.

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Dr. Arturo Casadevall is the chief of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and he’s advocated for the plasma treatment on the grounds of its past successes with diseases like Ebola and influenza.

“It has a high likelihood of working, but we won’t know whether it works until its done,” he told CNN. “We do know based on history it has a good chance.”

He also says he has been “overwhelmed” by the number of people who want to donate their plasma, and at the number of doctors who want to understand and deploy the treatment in countries around the world.

This is just one of many heartening stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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