Evanston-based NorthShore University HealthSystem is part of a nationwide study on preventing COVID-19 infections in those who have been exposed, as well as treating the illness for those who already have it.
The investigation of convalescent plasma is run by Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore. NorthShore is one of 30 health systems involved in the study, and will have the most participants of any institution other than Hopkins.
“By being part of the study,” says Dr. Giselle Mosnaim, allergist/immunologist and project leader at NorthShore, “you can be part of the solution.”
Convalescent plasma, a blood component, is transfused from a patient who has recovered from COVID and has “high octane” antibodies. These antibodies then target the virus in the plasma recipient.
There are two portions of the study. The first is aimed at people who know they have been exposed to a COVID-infected person, but have no symptoms. By getting the convalescent plasma transfusion, the hope is to block the recipient from contracting the virus, or at least lessen the impact.
The second part is for those who have mild COVID symptoms and test positive, but do not need hospitalization. The goal here is to see if a convalescent plasma transfusion will help the patient fight the disease and speed up recovery.
Convalescent plasma is not new. “The concept has been around for a long time,” Mosnaim says, and has “shown to be effective in a variety of diseases.”
It was even used during the Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918.
Currently, convalescent plasma is authorized for emergency use, and can only be provided to hospitalized patients who are not in good condition.
Researchers hope to see if convalescent plasma is effective for the broader treatment options under study. As with any randomized clinical trial, only half of the participants will receive the convalescent plasma. The rest will receive regular plasma only. However, all of those in the study will have full access to NorthShore’s COVID facilities should individuals contract the disease or should it worsen.
NorthShore has already enrolled about half of the 100 individuals needed for the study. “It’s wonderful that so many people want to be part of a solution,” Mosnaim says.
Anyone who has recovered from COVID and would like to donate plasma for the study, can call the NorthShore Blood Bank 847-570-2242.