El Paso area hospitals use convalescent plasma trials to treat COVID-19 patients

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EL PASO, Texas (KTSM)– El Paso area hospitals are taking experimental steps to treat patients hospitalized as a result of COVID-19.

Dr. Carlos Hatem, the director of pulmonary care at the Hospitals of Providence, says some patients in their care are taking part in convalescent plasma trials.

People who have previously tested positive for the virus and recovered can donate plasma which contains antibodies believed to combat the virus.

“We think that by giving these antibodies to people who are sick, we give them a window of time so their immune system can fight the virus and help them recover quicker,” Hatem said.

The doctor said trials began in May, with the first patient transfused on May 14. Participating hospitals include Providence Memorial campus, Sierra and Providence East.

In order to qualify for the trial you must:

  • be 18 years or older
  • currently admitted in the hospital
  • test positive for COVID-19
  • have symptoms of lung involvement (need oxygen)

“So far since we started the study we have transfused about 60 patients some have received more than one unit and we are getting more and more requests everyday,” Hatem said.

The trial is limited to those who qualify only, meaning if you’ve been exposed to someone who has tested positive but don’t meet the criteria above, you can’t be part of the trial.

Dr. Hatem said once a patient qualifies, they may receive the plasma rather soon, however, recently testing has caused a delay in the process.

“The patient has to be positive with the coronavirus before we can infuse them with plasma and we have been having delays with testing lately up to 48 hours, so to meet the criteria to get the plasma it is getting a little bit slower because of the testing,” Hatem said.

As far as the results, Dr. Hatem said since it is just a clinical trial, success is still being monitored, however, they have had some results with the convalescent plasma in combination with steroids and the drug Remdesivir.

“We can only speak to our subjective experience with the plasma and the feedback that we’re getting from people receiving it, we’ve had very good feedback and good clinical response however we have to wait for the final analysis of the data before we speak through the exact total of the plasma and the treatment of a patient with the coronavirus,” Hatem said.

University Medical Center said it has also participated in the trials for a couple months, seeing mixed success depending on the severity of the cases.

Hatem said many community members have generously donated plasma and encourages more people who’ve recovered from COVID-19 to donate as well.

To donate you can set up an appointment with Vitalant blood bank, or click here for more information.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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