Metro Health ICU physicians on the frontlines of COVID-19 treatment are also on the leading edge of searching for innovative solutions.
Intensive-care doctors Eric Feucht and Matt V. Zaccheo and section chief Dr. Gabriel E. Pedraza are working with Mayo Clinic to research the use of convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19. This therapy was used this month with two Metro Health ICU patients. One recovered and went home, and the other continues to improve.
“This is a promising treatment option and we are proud to contribute to the research,” said Dr. Ronald G. Grifka, Metro Health’s Chief Medical Officer. “The best minds in the world are working on this problem, and scientific collaboration of this sort is essential to finding the solutions.”
Mayo Clinic has been designated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to lead the project in collaboration with research institutions across the country. Metro Health is among the hospitals contributing to the project.
The idea convalescent plasma is more than a century old: A recovered patient’s blood serum is infused in a patient suffering the same disease, in hopes the recovered patient’s antibodies will help resist the viral invasion. This strategy has been used, with varying success, to treat Spanish Flu, SARs, Ebola and other outbreaks – but its effectiveness with COVID-19 is unknown.
Antibody-rich plasma is derived from the blood of recently recovered patients, with the red and white cells and platelets removed. It has been called “liquid gold” in part because of its color – but also because of its potential value. There is a worldwide scramble for blood donations from COVID-19 survivors – and to test the effectiveness of the therapy.
The FDA has only approved the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma as an investigational drug. This means it can be considered for use in clinical trials and for expanded use in patients with immediate, life-threatening conditions.
As a participant in the Mayo Clinic research, Metro Health will supply data from its patients who received infusions.
“Along with the scientific rigor, we’re seeing cooperation across the board to bring this investigation up to speed,” Grifka said. “This includes leading research institutions, hospitals and blood centers. Let’s not forget the recovered patients themselves, who are willing to roll up their sleeves, literally, in hopes that can help others.”
To find out if you are eligible to donate your plasma, click here.