The Maldonado Hemocenter announced on Wednesday that it is developing a special unit so that patients with COVID-19 who are in the recovery stage can donate plasma and the same way help those in a state of gravity.
The treatment in question is known as convalescent plasma and has gained traction in different countries in recent weeks. According to Jorge Curbelo, director of the Maldonado Hemocenter, plasma (the liquid part of the blood that concentrates the antibodies after a disease) would be used for treatment on patients who are about to enter Intensive Therapy Centers (CTI) to try to decrease the number of days they need to be there.
Curbelo explained that professionals will draw blood from mild patients and perform plasmapheresis with machinery at the hemocenter. He stated that President Luis Lacalle Pou was notified about this project and that his team is now working to purchase a mobile unit to perform home extractions so that donors do not have to move to a care center.
Plasma treatment is replicated in different parts of the world to address the new coronavirus pandemic, which has accumulated more than 130,000 deaths since its inception in China in December.
There are several clinical studies that began trying to stop the tragedy and a scientific track is being studied in China, the United States and France based on blood plasma transfusion from cured humans, who developed antibodies against COVID-19.
If effective, treatment can prevent patients from developing severe disease states. It can also be given to health workers and those who are constantly exposed to the virus.
This method was effective in small-scale studies of other infectious diseases such as Ebola and SARS.
Each plasma donation can "save three or four lives," according to Eldad Hod, a transfusion specialist who runs this essay at Columbia University Irving Hospital in New York.
In China, plasma transfers took place at the beginning of the epidemic. Two new studies, with few patients, concluded that this was an improvement in their clinical status.
How is convalescent plasma therapy performed at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York?
First, a study is conducted of people who have recovered from COVID-19 and who are interested in donating plasma. Doctors then expose potential donors to two tests.
The first is a diagnosis that ensures that they are no longer carriers of the new coronavirus. The second is a test that looks for antibodies in the blood plasma to ensure that enough antibodies are produced to fight the virus.
In Mount Sinai, an antibody test based on the genetic code of the virus was developed.
Researchers in that hospital mass produce a protein they get from the surface of the coronavirus. They then take special dishes with dozens of small wells and cover the bottom of each with synthetic proteins. They then place the sensor plasma in each well. If there are antibodies, they recognize the viral protein and join it.
Specialists then add an additional protein that lights up when they recognize the combination of synthetic viral protein with the coronavirus antibody. Researchers perform this test at different concentrations of the same sample until the additional protein is no longer activated. The later it stops firing, the more antibodies the plasma has, making it more suitable for therapy.
If the donor successfully passes both tests, he or she is sent to the New York Blood Center, where he or she can provide the plasma for this treatment.
However, before being supplied to patients with COVID-19, scientists ensure that the donated sample has no other viruses, such as HIV or hepatitis, and that blood types match. Preliminary estimates show that a donation is enough to serve approximately two people.
So far, Mount Sinai Hospital has treated more than 30 patients with this therapy, whose administration requires FDA authorization.