Ascension Saint Thomas collecting plasma to treat hospitalized patients with COVID-19

Saint Thomas needs donors of blood plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 to help patients with serious or immediately life-threatening illness associated with the coronavirus disease.

Ascension Saint Thomas is collecting convalescent plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 as part of an investigational treatment for very sick hospitalized patients currently battling the virus, in an Expanded Access Research Program (EAP), via a partnership of the FDA, Mayo Clinic and the American Red Cross. In order to provide the treatment, the health system is asking for plasma donors who meet certain criteria.

“People who successfully recover from COVID-19 likely now have antibodies to the virus that are still in their plasma, which is a component of blood,” said Peter Jelsma, M.D., Blood Bank Medical Director, Ascension Saint Thomas. “In this experimental treatment, doctors transfuse this donated plasma with the antibodies, also called convalescent plasma, into a person still fighting the virus. Early studies have shown this method could possibly improve a patient’s immune system and potentially help them get better.”

There is significant circumstantial evidence to suggest that donated convalescent plasma, from people recently recovered from a COVID-19 infection, can be helpful if infused into actively sick inpatients who have tested positive for COVID-19. A number of viruses have been treated with varying success using convalescent plasma over the years. Data include two small-scale studies from Wuhan, China on patients with COVID-19 and other small-scale studies on two other coronaviruses, SARS and MERS. Importantly, the existing evidence suggests that treatment earlier in a hospital course may be more beneficial, with a goal of intervening before patients become ventilator dependent.

Donors must meet the standard required screening criteria for blood donation in addition to the following criteria from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration:

  • Prior diagnosis of COVID-19 that is documented by an FDA-approved laboratory test
  • Complete resolution of symptoms at least 14 days before donation and a documented FDA-approved negative COVID-19 test or complete resolution of symptoms at least 28 days before donation

Patients who have not had symptoms for 14-28 days and would like to donate will need to be tested again to ensure they are now negative for COVID-19. Those interested in donating plasma can reach out to the Plasma Donor Hotline at 615-284-4108. At that point, one of the Ascension Saint Thomas research nurse intake coordinators will help begin the screening process.

Ascension Saint Thomas continues to work in partnership with local, state and national health officials including the Tennessee Department of Health and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.