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Swedish Covenant Hospital

07/13/2020 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 07/13/2020 08:35

Fighting COVID-19 with Convalescent Plasma Therapy

In partnership with NorthShore, a Swedish Hospital team has been providing convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19 patients under a Mayo Clinic expanded use study. The team, led by Dr. Eric Gluck, Critical Care, has treated more than 75 patients since starting the study, and they are pleased with the initial results.

Convalescent plasma therapy is an experimental treatment for patients with severe COVID-19. The blood from people who've recovered is called convalescent plasma which may be given to people with severe COVID-19 to potentially boost their ability to fight the virus. It also might help keep people who are moderately ill from becoming more ill and experiencing complications.

The plasma used at Swedish Hospital was collected at the NorthShore blood donor center under the leadership of Clinical Pathologist Dr. Thomas J. Gniadek, M.D., Ph. D. and in accordance with an IRB-approved research protocol. When COVID-19 began, NorthShore purchased two Alyx apheresis plasma collection machines from Fresenius Kabi, in Lake Zurich, IL., which allowed for the collection of three units of convalescent plasma per donation making the process significantly more efficient. Plasma collected at NorthShore was available for use by any Illinois hospital, provided the patient's physicians ordered the convalescent plasma and obtained appropriate approvals for its use.

The Swedish blood bank team, headed by Dr. Perry Guariglia, Anatomical & Clinical Pathology, worked closely with their NorthShore colleagues to organize a system to efficiently distribute plasma when needed by the Swedish ICU team.

Final results will be shared with the Mayo Clinic so that there is enough data to draw conclusions regarding the benefit of this treatment; however doctors are encouraged by what they have observed so far. 'While this is not a magic bullet and of course we need more data, we are seeing benefits to recipients, including fewer transfers from the floor to the ICU, less time needed on a ventilator, shorter ICU stays and a reduced mortality rate,' said Dr. Gluck.

Learning From History

Dr. Gluck, Dr. Guariglia, and Dr. Dan Coomes, Pulmonary Fellow, did research on plasma prior to the study and confirmed that the side effects were essentially the same as that of fresh frozen plasma.

They then looked into the optimal time to administer the treatment and asked Swedish Hospital Medical Librarian Lizabeth Giese to research archived reports from the 1918 pandemic. They uncovered a report suggesting that plasma helped those who were treated earlier to achieve the best results. 'Based on that report, I told my ICU team that the earlier we administer the plasma the better it was for patients, and our data ultimately showed plasma to be more effective for patients who had it early,' said Dr. Gluck.

A Benefit for Now and the Future

While this treatment is helping patients today, additional benefits may be seen in the future for the next wave or next pandemic. 'This treatment can potentially help address a major problem in treating illnesses that are infectious. Plasma can be a tool to attack the next illness that comes,' added Dr. Gluck, who believes combining convalescent plasma with Remdesivir or another agent may be even more effective and worth researching. 'As our techniques improve, and we can separate the antibodies, we can fight the next epidemic a bit better that this one.'

The medical teams are preparing to share results with the Mayo Clinic so the data can be reviewed to determine nationwide results, key learnings and next steps. The medical teams are proud to have partnered and taken this proactive step to care for seriously ill patients who had limited options in battling COVID-19.

'The success of the NorthShore convalescent plasma collection program would not have been possible without the financial support and leadership of Dr. Karen Kaul, Chair of Pathology and Gabrielle Cummings, President of Highland Park Hospital, along with funds donated through the NorthShore Foundation to support these efforts,' said Dr. Gniadek. 'And I'd like to recognize the many NorthShore and Swedish Hospital employees and community members who traveled to Evanston Hospital to donate plasma.'