Long Beach hospitals begin experimental convalescent plasma therapy for COVID-19

MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center and Miller Children and Women’s Hospital Long Beach are among the four MemorialCare hospitals treating coronavirus patients with transfusions of plasma from individuals who have already recovered as part of the federal Expanded Access Program to treat COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma therapy refers to giving patients with severe and life-threatening cases of COVID-19 transfusions of plasma from donors who have already recovered from the virus. Plasma from donors who have fully recovered from COVID-19 may contain antibodies that can help infected patients fight off the disease, according to the Expanded Access Program’s website.
The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any drugs for the treatment of COVID-19, and convalescent plasma therapy provides a drug free alternative. However, the treatment is still experimental and rates of success in patients are not yet known.

“There is no doubt that nationwide, the medical community is working hard to develop evidence-based SARS-COV-2 treatment solutions. I am proud that my hospital is a part of this endeavor,” David Michalik, DO, pediatric infectious disease specialist at MemorialCare Long Beach Medical Center and Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital Long Beach said in a press release. “Convalescent plasma has gained considerable traction as a treatment option in SARS-COV-2 infected patients. I remain hopeful that studies will show its use can improve outcomes for those fighting this infection.”

Fatal COVID-19 symptoms include acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) and organ failure.

There have currently been 1,605 confirmed cases of coronavirus in Long Beach. There have been 75 fatalities in the city due to the virus, while 1,150 residents have recovered already and 65 are currently hospitalized.

The MemorialCare research team, led by Emanuel Ferro, MD, of Long Beach Medical Center, will collect and provide data for the Expanded Access Program while providing convalescent plasma therapy to critically ill COVID-19 patients.

MemorialCare’s Orange Coast Medical Center in Fountain Valley and Saddleback Medical Center in Laguna Hills are the other two participating MemorialCare hospitals.

The four hospitals combined have treated 17 COVID-19 patients using convalescent plasma therapy, according to a May 14 press release by MemorialCare.

The Mayo Clinic will lead the program while working closely with other medical, industry, academic and government partners. If convalescent plasma therapy is found to be a reliable treatment for COVID-19, the Mayo Clinic may consider giving the treatment to healthcare workers and family members of infected people as a preventative measure.

According to the Mayo Clinic, the likelihood of contracting COVID-19 from convalescent plasma therapy has not been tested yet. Medical professionals believe the possibility of contracting an infection from the therapy is low because the plasma donors have already fully recovered.

MemorialCare’s four participating facilities will be receiving donated plasma from the San Diego Blood Bank.

Long Beach residents who have fully recovered from COVID-19 and wish to donate their plasma can do so at the American Red Cross – Long Beach Blood Donation Center, 3150 E 29th St.

“The use of convalescent plasma from patients that have recovered from other types of infections can sometimes be lifesaving,” Dr. Ferro said. “Our hope is that the transfusion of plasma from patients that have recovered from COVID-19 infection may provide an additional valuable therapeutic option for our patients.”


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