The FDA has started allowing clinicians to treat patients with COVID-19 with blood plasma from patients who have recovered from the disease on a case-by-case basis. Doctors administering the treatment hope that this convalescent plasma contains antibodies that may be effective against the virus.
“Convalescent plasma has not been shown to be effective in every disease studied,” FDA officials stressed. Further research is needed before patients can be routinely treated for the coronavirus using this approach, the agency says, so clinical studies are expected to begin in mid-April.
To receive plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient, the patient in need must also be diagnosed with the coronavirus and be facing conditions such as septic shock, life-threatening respiratory failure, or organ failure. Additionally, the plasma can only be collected from patients whose symptoms have completely resolved for at least 14 days and who are otherwise eligible to give blood, which may impact the availability of such a treatment.
While FDA officials said recent data on plasma therapy from Wuhan, China show promising results, a similar approach was tried to treat the Ebola virus but “was not associated with a significant improvement in survival,” according to a January 2016 article in the New England Journal of Medicine.