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Blood donation programs to accept plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients in four states

Blood donation programs to accept plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients in four states
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Blood donation programs are being launched in four states to collect the plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients, a company official told The Arizona Republic.

The blood donation company Vitalant is starting pilot programs in Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Pennsylvania, Ralph Vassallo, the chief medical and scientific officer, told the Republic Monday.

Vitalant, which was formerly known as United Blood Services, is seeking recovered COVID-19 patients, who officially tested positive, to donate blood to investigate a potential treatment for the virus. 

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Currently the virus has no proven treatments, but plasma from past patients has anecdotally been used to treat the novel coronavirus which causes COVID-19 and other coronaviruses in the past, according to the Arizona newspaper.

"Unfortunately, it's kind of the only ray of hope at present until we identify some medications that have some promise," Vassallo said.

The body develops antibodies to fight viruses, which can stay in the blood for some time and could be helpful in fighting the infection in another person. The collected plasma, which includes the liquid part of blood after removing blood cells and platelets, could hold these antibodies, which could be transferred to another patient.

The programs are seeking people who have recovered and who have been symptom-free for at least 14 days to donate blood for the treatment. The participants must have tested positive for COVID-19 previously but negative now. 

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) designates this treatment as “investigational” and requires clinical trials to ensure its safety before the treatment can be used regularly. The FDA has permitted doctors to use the plasma treatment with an emergency investigational new drug application to the administration.

"Although promising, convalescent plasma has not yet been shown to be effective in COVID-19," the FDA's website said.

There is no testing currently widely available to determine if a person has already had the disease and has antibodies to fight it. 

Plasma has previously been utilized to fight SARS, MERS and H1N1, the FDA reported.