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Texas study shows COVID-19 convalescent plasma therapy is safe and helps most patients get better

Looking at 25 very sick patients, the study showed 76% improved after receiving convalescent plasma from those who’d already recovered from the virus.

AUSTIN, Texas — As doctors and researchers nationwide search for a treatment for COVID-19, there’s now research that shows the use of convalescent plasma on patients is safe and it helps most patients improve.

University of Texas researchers in Austin partnered up with Houston Methodist Hospital for the study. Looking at 25 very sick patients, it showed 76% improved after receiving convalescent plasma from those who’d already recovered from COVID-19. Eleven of them were also discharged from the hospital and, according to UT Researcher Jason Lavinder, 24 out of 25 patients survived.

This is the first peer-reviewed study of its kind in the country. Lavinder said the team at UT received more than 150 plasma donations, which really helped in the process.

“If we have enough donors in place, we're going to have better options, put it that way,” said Lavinder. “As you know, we can triage and screen more donors. And if we can find donors that have really high levels of antibodies in their blood, that's going to assist us, that's going to help us with treatment options.”

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As part of the study, UT researchers created a test that measures the level of immunity or antibodies in a recovered patient's plasma. This then allowed them to make sure the strongest samples were given to the very sick patients who had COVID-19 at Houston Methodist.

“We would measure the antibody levels within the samples, report back to them the levels, and then they would use that data to essentially triage the samples, decide which ones had the most antibodies, the most immunity in it, and use those samples as donor samples for people who are severely ill,” said Lavinder.

The study also showed there are no adverse side effects from the plasma transfusion.

UT made the announcement about the study this month. According to the university, researchers started studying the patients in late March. Right now, the FDA is still looking into convalescent plasma as a treatment for COVID-19, though it is not yet approved.

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