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This page offers all of Delaware Public Media's ongoing coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak and how it is affecting the First State. Check here regularly for the latest new and information.

Delaware hospitals begin using convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19

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Some Delaware hospitals are now using plasma donations from people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to treat patients critically ill with the virus. 

A research protocol headed by the Mayo Clinic is looking to find out if convalescent plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients who’ve developed antibodies for the virus can be used as an effective treatment. 

The method is approved under an FDA expanded access program. 

“People that have recovered from COVID-19 will have in their blood system antibodies that will boost your immunity to the virus,” said Infection Disease Specialist Dr. Alfred Bacon, medical director of clinical trials at ChristianaCare. “We’re using those blood products, or the plasma from those individuals, and infusing those into acutely ill people with COVID-19 in hopes that those antibodies will be present in enough numbers to improve how they do with the disease.”       

Sussex County’s Beebe Healthcare says it was the first health system to start using plasma to treat COVID-19 in Delaware, treating its first patient on Thursday, April 16.

At least three Delaware hospitals are using the treatment. As of Friday, Beebe has treated three patients, ChristianaCare has treated 10 and Bayhealth has treated six.

Results are pending, but Beebe Healthcare Infectious Disease Physician Dr. Bill Chasanov says he’s optimistic the method will be effective. He notes plasma was used to treat Diphtheria in the 19th century and the Spanish Flu in the 1920s. 

“So this therapy has been around for a long time and it has shown in other situations to be helpful,” said Chasanov. “So we’re very optimistic.”       

Bayhealth Senior Vice President and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Gary Siegelman points to recent but limited Chinese studies that have shown “promising” results from plasma treatment. He says these include a reduced quantity of the virus in patient’s blood stream, improved oxygen levels and less mortality for COVID-19 patients treated with plasma. But he adds he hesitates to endorse those claims until he sees his own results. 

“We really don’t have enough information right now,” said Siegelman. “We will be tracking their oxygen levels, we check what are called inflammatory markers to see if those improve, you can also look at the chest x-ray to see if that improves. So a week is pretty early to tell.”

Physicians in Delaware say the supply of plasma so far has been good, but more will be needed if the method proves to be effective. 

A spokesperson from the Blood Bank of Delmarva says 100 individuals were able to give plasma with COVID-19 antibodies in the first week the blood bank started taking the donations earlier this month.

Those recovered from COVID-19 are encouraged to visit the Blood Bank of Delmarva website for details on how to donate plasma. Candidates for the convalescent plasma program have tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered and been symptom-free for at least 14 days, and meet other typical blood bank requirements