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Seattle study seeks plasma from coronavirus survivors to help treat others

If you are in good health and have recovered from COVID-19, your blood plasma might be able to help others infected with the virus.

The University of Washington and Bloodworks Northwest are looking for volunteers who have recovered from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) to donate blood plasma for a study.

Researchers are looking into whether the antibodies in blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can help those who are still infected with the virus. The UW said donated plasma is regularly used to make medicine with antibodies to treat patients with severe infections or patients who cannot make antibodies on their own.

“We are excited about moving forward in this time of a serious pandemic to develop a potential new therapy for this infection,” said Dr. Terry Gernsheimer, a professor of medicine (hematology) at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

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Plasma is collected by using a specialized machine that separates it from the cells in the donor’s blood and then returns the remaining blood to the donor. The UW said the process is safe and sterile, and that the body quickly replaces the plasma and proteins that are removed. People can donate plasma every two weeks.

UW's Dr. Anna Wald  is optimistic about the study, "I've actually already been contacted by people who have recovered. There's a lot of community spirit in Seattle with people wanting to do something." 

Researchers will look at the recovered patients’ antibody levels and general health to ensure they are a good candidate to donate plasma for the study.

“We also hope to gather demographics about COVID-19 survivors to see if there are meaningful associations, and discern as best we can how those antibodies contributed to their recovery. Eventually, we want to tie the donors’ characteristics with outcomes in patients who receive infusions of plasma. This study protocol does not address that, but a longer-term project would,” Gernsheimer said.

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A donor’s first visit would be to the University of Washington Virology Research Clinic to confirm their COVID-19 infection and to asses the donor’s health. Blood would be drawn to see if the participant would qualify to be a plasma donor. Depending on the results, the UW said participants would then be invited to make an appointment with Bloodworks Northwest for further screening.

Anyone interested in participating in the study is asked to email their name and contact information to covidplasma@uw.edu, or call 206-520-4212 and leave a message.

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