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Greenville Business Magazine

Prisma Health to begin testing effectiveness of blood plasma as part of national investigational therapy

Apr 16, 2020 11:41AM ● By David Dykes

By David Dykes

Prisma Health is participating in a national investigational treatment to test the effectiveness of blood plasma in severe or critically-ill COVID-19 patients. 

The treatment is developed from the plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients and then administered to hospitalized patients who have life-threatening COVID-19 disease.

 The overall goal of the trial is to determine if blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can improve the chance of recovery for people severely-ill with the disease, Prisma Health officials said.

The not-for-profit health company Health said it is participating in the national coalition established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

COVID-19 patients who meet certain criteria established by the FDA are eligible for the treatment. Mayo Clinic serves as the lead institution, with blood banks helping collect the plasma and distribute it for use in COVID-19 patients in approximately 100 sites across the country, including Prisma Health.

A partnership with Prisma Health and The Blood Connection based in Greenville, will ensure local plasma is available for South Carolinians, health officials said. The University of South Carolina will provide lab testing as needed.

Recovered COVID-19 patients are encouraged to donate blood plasma for this FDA-authorized treatment for critically ill patients who may benefit from coronavirus-fighting antibodies, Prisma officials said. The donated blood plasma could be made into convalescent serum and given to approved patients within days, the officials said.

Prisma Health’s Dr. Jeffery Edenfield, medical director, Institute for Translational Oncology Research, is the project’s principal investigator.

Currently, serum therapy is only approved for the most ill COVID-19 patients.

“The immune systems of recovered patients have created the antibodies needed to clear the virus from the body. These same antibodies can be collected from them in a process much like giving blood and then given to others who are still struggling with the disease,” said Edenfield, a hematologist and oncologist at Prisma Health Cancer Institute-Upstate.

“We are hopeful that using the treatment will help more severely ill people recover more quickly,” said Edenfield. 

The investigational treatment has shown promise in outbreaks of similar viral respiratory infections, Edenfield added.

Prisma Health patients who were confirmed as positive for COVID-19 and who have recovered and tested negative will receive a letter inviting them to donate plasma for this effort when fully recovered. 

Any recovered COVID-19 patient who has testing documentation from their physician may be eligible to donate plasma, Prisma Health officials said.

Dr. Robert Rainer helped bridge the collaboration with The Blood Connection, a regional blood bank.

Rainer, who is both a blood bank pathologist for Prisma Health and medical director for The Blood Connection, said the blood bank will “help collect a local supply of antibody-rich plasma for South Carolina patients with immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.”

Prisma Health also is collaborating with its academic partner, the University of South Carolina. 

"With help from our UofSC research colleagues in genetics and pharmacology, we are able to quickly process any additional lab testing that may be needed to ensure the treatment is appropriate for the patient,” said Dr. Helmut Albrecht, a specialist in infectious diseases at Prisma Health and chair of the Department of Internal Medicine at the UofSC School of Medicine in Columbia.

How to donate

If you have recovered from COVID-19 and wish to donate, please contact The Blood Connection (864)751-1168 to make an appointment. The Blood Connection is based in the Upstate area. In addition, donation times and locations will be scheduled in the Midlands based on the number of interested donors who meet the criteria. 

Positive test documentation/results can include the following: 

  • A copy of the donor lab results showing a positive test for COVID-19 which shows the date of the positive test. 

    • A document from their healthcare provider stating that the donor had a positive test for COVID-19 and the date of the positive test. This document must be on the letterhead or prescription pad of the healthcare provider and must be signed and dated by the healthcare provider. 

  • Please note that The Blood Connection does not test for COVID-19.