St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor treats COVID-19 patient with recovered individual’s donated plasma

Convalescent plasma treatment part of Mayo Clinic program

St. Joseph Mercy Hospital Ann Arbor at 5301 McAuley Dr. in Ypsilanti. (Benjamin Weatherston, photo by Benjamin Weatherston)

ANN ARBOR – Saint Joseph Mercy Health System has treated its first COVID-19 patient with plasma donated by a recovered individual at St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor hospital.

The treatment is part of the Mayo Clinic Coordinated Expanded Access to Convalescent Plasma Program. Eleven patients at St. Joe’s were among the first to be registered nationally for the trial. The trial includes more than 1,000 hospitals across the country.

Along with St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor, three other health system member hospitals are participating in the program, including St. Joseph Mercy Oakland, St. Mary Mercy Livonia and Mercy Health Muskegon.

“Early participation in this program is due in part to our robust oncology research program, which gave us the ability to quickly develop our plasma program to respond in the hopes of helping to bring forward a treatment for COVID-19 as soon as possible,” Anurag Malani, medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Saint Joseph Mercy Health System said in a statement. “Our focus now is to spread the word to those who have had COVID to donate their plasma for use in this program.”

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According to experts, individuals recover from COVID-19 in part because of a likely presence of antibodies in their blood which are capable of fighting the coronavirus. In similar cases, people who receive plasma from recovered patients of other viruses tend to see a more rapid improvement of their disease.

As more and more people recover from COVID-19 around the world, doctors hope to see a similar response to plasma treatment for coronavirus.

Only individuals who are hospitalized and have a severe or life-threatening case of COVID-19, or are at risk of developing severe disease, are eligible to receive the treatment. Participation in the program requires the patient’s -- or their legally authorized representative’s -- consent.

While clinical trials are focused primarily on research, an Expanded Access Program like the COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Program is able to access new experimental drugs for the purpose of treatment.

So far, data shows that for some COVID-19 patients with severe or life-threatening cases, a single infusion of convalescent plasma has proven to be beneficial.

Since the treatment is still in its initial phase, it is unknown whether it will have any harmful effects or whether it will or will not improve conditions of those with COVID-19. However, it is one of the only treatments available at this time.

Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and are symptom-free for 28 days are encouraged to register in the blood donation program with the Red Cross.

In addition to the Mayo Clinic’s convalescent plasma program, St. Joe’s Ann Arbor is also participating in Gilead’s Remdesivir Expanded Access Program. St. Joe’s is one of two sites to offer the experimental antiviral drug, which the World Health Organization has identified as one of the most promising treatments of the aggressive virus.

Similar to the plasma program, only patients with life-threatening symptoms who require ventilator support are eligible for the remdesivir program. To date, St. Joe’s has registered 16 patients for the trial.

About the Author:

Meredith has worked for WDIV since August 2017 and was voted one of Washtenaw County's best journalists in 2019 by eCurrent's readers. She covers the community of Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in International Broadcast Journalism from City University London, UK.