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Houston Methodist first in the nation to be approved by FDA to transfuse donated plasma from recovered COVID-19 patient

HOUSTON – Houston Methodist Hospital will be the first academic medical center in the country to transfuse donated plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient to a critically-ill COVID-19 patient.

"What we did is transfused COVID-19 convalescent plasma to two critically ill patients," said Dr. Eric Salazar, the principal investigator and a physician-scientist at Houston Methodist. "It's plasma that's been collected from donors that previously had COVID-19 and have successfully recovered,"

The idea is that the donated plasma may have lifesaving antibodies made by the immune system, which could help an individual fight off the disease, according to Dr. Jim Musser, the chair of the Pathology and Genomic Medicine at Houston Methodist.

Houston Methodist doctors said transferring the antibody-rich plasma into a COVID-19 patient may allow the power of the antibodies into a possible lifesaving therapy. Convalescent serum therapy is a concept that dates back centuries.

"What we don't know at this point is exactly which patient and which type of patient this is going to help the best, but that's the importance of doing this type of study," Musser said.

The FDA approved the treatment Saturday, classified as an emergency investigational new drug protocol.

Houston Methodist Hospital said the FDA must approve each patient using the donated convalescent serum.

Houston Methodist said physicians began recruiting blood plasma donors on Friday from approximately 250 patients who have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus at Houston Methodist hospitals.

The first recovered COVID-19 patient to donate was an individual from the Houston area who has been in good health for more than two weeks. Donors give a quart of blood plasma in a procedure, much like donating blood.

"This is like a regular plasma donation, and so we the donors have to qualify to be regular plasma donors. We have to follow the procedures that you would normally follow for any plasma donation, and that includes matching blood types and testing the plasma for infectious agents," Salazar said.

Convalescent serum therapy could be a vital treatment. However, Musser said the ongoing clinical trials could take a while because there is a lot of data that still needs to be collected.