When you get sick with COVID-19, your immune system develops antibodies that help it fight the virus.
“These antibodies are like guided missiles that will home right in on that virus,” says Dr. Fred LeMaistre, physician-in-chief of blood cancers at Sarah Cannon and the senior physician on the Sarah Cannon Research Institute/HCA Healthcare Research Institute task force overseeing the development and implementation of COVID-19-related research.
“So our hope is that that by using plasma from a donor who recovered from COVID-19 to treat a patient with an active infection, we would help that patient recover faster and avoid complications, such as pneumonia or the need for ICU care or a ventilator.”
While convalescent plasma has been used safely as far back as the 1890s—and more recently against outbreaks of other coronaviruses such as SARS and MERS—Dr. LeMaistre stresses that it’s not yet a proven therapy.
“It’s been used a lot, and we know from those experiences that it seems to be relatively safe,” says Dr. LeMaistre. “But there’s not a lot in the medical literature that shows exactly when to use it, how to use it and how often we should expect it to work in certain kinds of viral infections. That’s why this study is so important.”