Ascension Mid-Michigan hospitals participating in plasma trial to fight COVID-19

GRAND BLANC — Ascension Genesys and Ascension St. Mary’s are participating in a national trial to determine if convalescent plasma therapy is an effective treatment for critically ill COVID-19 patients.

Both Ascension hospitals are registered participants in this nationwide clinical trial coordinated by the Mayo Clinic.

Convalescent plasma is the liquid part of blood that is collected from people who have recovered from an infection. Antibodies present in convalescent plasma are proteins that might help fight the infection. While there is no approved treatment for coronavirus at this time, further investigation is still necessary to determine if convalescent plasma therapy might shorten the duration of illness, reduce morbidity or prevent death associated with COVID- 19.

“Convalescent plasma therapy is being given to COVID-19 patients who meet established criteria, within 3 to 5 days, to help them build immunity against the virus, to help fight the infection,” said Suhasini Gudipati, MD, Medical Director of Infectious Disease and Infection Prevention at Ascension St. Mary’s Hospital. “The possibilities of this new treatment are encouraging. While it is not known if convalescent plasma will be an effective treatment against COVID-19, there is anecdotal evidence that it might be helpful for some patients. We are optimistic.”

Convalescent plasma must be collected from fully recovered patients who had a prior diagnosis of COVID-19 documented by a laboratory test and meet screening criteria. Ascension Genesys and Ascension St. Mary’s work with Versiti, a blood bank provider in the mid-Michigan region, to collect donated plasma and provide it directly back to the hospital so it can be administered to critically ill patients.

Combined, the two Ascension hospitals have treated nearly a dozen COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma as of April 28.

“Treatment for COVID-19 is personalized to a patient’s individual circumstances and we are doing everything we can to provide hospitalized patients with options, including potential use of certain investigational therapies such as convalescent plasma for critically ill patients,” said Muhammad Aboudan, MD, Medical Director, Ascension Genesys Hospital Critical Care Units. “Convalescent plasma has been used in the past as a potential life-saving treatment when there are new diseases, like SARS and Ebola, but no treatment or vaccine exists. If this is effective, it could be a bridge until we have a vaccine or until other effective drugs and treatments are available.”

Staff from Ascension Genesys and Ascension St. Mary’s are contacting recovered COVID-19 patients to ask if they would be interested in donating plasma. Collecting the plasma takes 30-40 minutes and is done at a local blood donation center. Any person who has recovered from COVID- 19 and is interested in donating blood should register by visiting www.versiti.org/covid19plasma or call 866-702-HOPE (4673). — G.G.