Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System is participating in a federally sponsored program to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients by using plasma donated from those who have already recovered from the virus.
Led by the Mayo Clinic, the national Convalescent Plasma Expanded Access Program will collect blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 donors who meet several criteria established by the Food and Drug Administration. Announced on April 3, the national program will speed access and increase availability of convalescent plasma for hospitalized patients in need.
Mayo Clinic and the larger blood-banking community are working with physicians to collect and distribute the donor plasma to hospitalized patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19, or those at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease.
Convalescent plasma refers to blood plasma collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19. That plasma is then used to treat others with advanced illness. The plasma donor must have recovered from, and tested negative for, COVID-19 and be otherwise healthy. The patient is transfused with the donor's plasma, which contains antibodies that can attack the virus and may help patients recover more rapidly.
Spartanburg Regional registered its first patient on April 18 to receive convalescent plasma, a potentially groundbreaking treatment for critically ill patients. Kamara Mertz-Rivera, director of clinical research, along with Drs. Amy Baruch, James Bearden, Chuck Morrow, Stu Reynolds and research nurse Tom Leuck, worked with the Blood Connection to coordinate the effort.
“Spartanburg Regional has a long history of participating in innovative research programs that benefit patients,” said Dr. James Bearden, vice president of clinical research and associate director of clinical research. “Our team is pleased to partner in this effort to treat patients who are critically ill with COVID-19.”
Dr. Chuck Morrow, chief medical officer and vice president for medical affairs, said Spartanburg Regional’s participation in this program will benefit families and advance COVID-19 research efforts.
“This could potentially save lives here in the Upstate while also providing us with important information about treating this virus – information that will be invaluable to hospitals across the country as we continue this fight together,” Morrow said.
The convalescent plasma program at Mayo Clinic, which is led by researcher Michael Joyner, MD, grew from a national initiative of physicians and investigators from 40 institutions who self-organized to investigate the use of convalescent plasma during the COVID-19 pandemic. These institutions include Mayo Clinic, Johns Hopkins University, Washington University, Einstein Medical Center, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Michigan State University, as well as other academic medical centers and government agencies seeking to establish a national convalescent plasma program to modify the course of disease.
Physicians at any institution who are treating hospitalized patients with COVID-19 can register their patients' information at uscovidplasma.org. The national program is supported by the American Red Cross and the larger blood-banking community, which work with physicians to collect and distribute the donor plasma.