Questions and Answers about Coronavirus

News & Events

For Immediate Release

Date:               7 April 2020

Contact:          John Yeager | 425-765-9845 | JYeager@BloodworksNW.org

                          Karen Kirby | 206-689-6359| karenk@bloodworksnw.org

Bloodworks Joins Partners in Forefront of COVID-19 Treatment Study

Plasma from already-recovered patients may help people with severe cases.

Seattle, WA – The Pacific Northwest was the first US epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has put the general population, healthcare workers and first responders in serious danger since there are no known anti-viral drugs or vaccines for this illness. Bloodworks Northwest announced today that it has partnered with leading agencies in a study at the forefront of identifying effective treatment for patients severely ill with the new virus by collecting plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients.

“Bloodworks Northwest and scientists at Bloodworks Research Institute are honored to partner on an urgent study to identify treatment for COVID-19 patients,” said Curt Bailey, President and CEO of Bloodworks Northwest. “We’re joining local healthcare leaders at the University of Washington, and leaders at the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, part of  the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration allow Bloodworks to cooperate with treatment protocols like the one proposed by Johns Hopkins University.”

“We will be collecting plasma donations from local people who have already previously tested positive and recovered from COVID-19; this is known as convalescent plasma,” explained Dr. Rebecca Haley, Bloodworks Northwest Medical Director of Cell Therapy. “This study will determine whether antibodies extracted from convalescent plasma can be used to treat patients experiencing the most severe complications of the virus.”

University of Washington and Bloodworks Northwest will screen and test donors to confirm that they are fully recovered (28-days symptom free) and have antibodies specific to the virus that causes COVID-19. They must also meet normal FDA eligibility requirements for plasma donation. Bloodworks Northwest will collect donations from these screened and qualified plasma donors, test and process those plasma units for transfusion. “We expect the first convalescent plasma collections to begin in early April,” Haley said.

“People who believe they might qualify for this study and have received a previous positive test result are urged to contact us immediately at 206-689-6689 to assist these efforts,” Haley said. “We are not able to accept presumed cases of COVID-19 at this time.”

The new virus continues to spread in the U.S. and worldwide, resulting in life-threatening symptoms and death for some people who become infected. On March 24, 2020 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the experimental use of convalescent plasma for COVID-19 patients on a case-by-case basis. Though experimental, plasma from convalescent donors was used effectively in the 1918 influenza epidemic, and during recent SARS 2003 and MERS 2012 outbreaks. The current study will help determine if it’s effective for COVID-19.

Once qualified, convalescent plasma donors may be able to safely donate multiple times: up to once a week, or 24 times a year. Donors will be routinely tested to ensure they’re maintaining sufficient, healthy levels of antibodies.

The donation process is called plasmapheresis: blood is removed into sterile equipment and only plasma is extracted, with all remaining blood components (red cells and platelets) returned to the body. The comfortable, in-center procedure takes about 45 minutes. Donors can relax in their chair, read or watch a movie.

Bloodworks Northwest does not test directly for COVID-19. Anyone who is unwell or exhibiting symptoms must contact their own healthcare provider or local public health authority.

Bloodworks Northwest continues to urge healthy donors to act by making their appointments now to donate blood in April, and again when they become eligible. This is the only way the Pacific Northwest will meet the unprecedented demand facing our healthcare system and people whose lives depend on it.

Plasma background

Plasma is the liquid component of the blood that contains various proteins — including antibodies that defend your body against prior viruses or infections. Donated plasma is used to treat people fighting severe infections, or with diseases or medical conditions where their own bodies are not able to make antibodies.

Additional Resources:
For the latest information on COVID-19 please visit the CDC website and Washington State Department of Health COVID-19 main page.

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