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If you’ve recently recovered from COVID-19, a blood plasma donation could save the lives of others who are still battling the illness.

New York Blood Center and Stony Brook Medicine are soliciting patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma, which will be used to research a potential treatment for current coronavirus patients still battling the illness.

Convalescent plasma therapy transfers blood plasma containing antibodies from recovered donors to patients who have not yet overcome the disease on their own, which could potentially provide them with some immunity to the illness.

Stony Brook University Hospital received FDA approval this week to offer the experimental treatment to patients through a randomized, controlled study. The hospital anticipates enrolling up to 500 patients from the Long Island area.

“We are fast-tracking this large-scale clinical trial, as every second counts when seeking lifesaving treatment for these critically ill patients,” said Dr. Elliott Bennett-Guerrero, who is leading the study at Stony Brook.

Northwell Health, which is the parent health system for Peconic Bay Medical Center in Riverhead, will soon begin its own clinical trials as well, a spokesperson confirmed today.

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The therapy could help save the lives of some of the most critically ill patients battling the disease, which currently has no treatments approved by the FDA.

Blood plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 should contain antibodies to the illness, which could give them some immunity to the virus that has already killed more than 7,000 people across New York State in the past month.

Antibodies are generated by an infected person’s immune system in order to fight the virus. Once the patient has recovered, their immune system has now learned how to produce antibodies that can attack the virus upon additional exposures. Plasma cells continue to produce antibodies to the illnesses that a person has overcome in the past. This is how immunity works.

Researchers hope that transferring blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 donors to sick patients could give their bodies the tools they need to recover.

“Transferring this antibody-rich plasma into someone who is still fighting the disease may give that person the immune power to recover from the disease,” said Dr. Bennett-Guerrero. “This is especially important in the first several weeks of infection before one can develop high enough antibody levels to fight the virus.”

This treatment has also been used successfully to provide immunity against numerous other viruses, including during the 2003 SARS epidemic and the 2009 H1N1 influenza.

Though early reports from China have shown promise, the therapy has not yet been proven as an effective treatment for COVID-19, according to the Food and Drug Administration. Researchers across the nation are therefore beginning clinical trials, including those at Stony Brook University Hospital.

Those who have recovered from COVID-19 can apply to give a plasma donation through New York Blood Center or Stony Brook University Hospital. A single donor could help save the lives of up to four patients, according to the FDA.

Donating blood plasma is similar to donating whole blood, which is the most common type of blood donation. The largest difference is that the donor’s blood is returned back to the donor’s body after the plasma has been extracted from the blood over the course of the donation.

Patients must have tested positive for COVID-19 and their symptoms must be gone for at least 14 days in order to qualify for a donation.

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Katie Morosky
Katie, winner of the 2016 James Murphy Cub Reporter of the Year award from the L.I. Press Club, is a co-publisher of RiverheadLOCAL. A Riverhead native, she is a 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. Email Katie