Bay Area Doctors Waiting on Green Light for Plasma Therapy to Treat COVID-19

Plasma therapy has been used to treat other coronaviruses including SARS and MERS.

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In less than two weeks, doctors in the Bay Area will have the green light to test whether plasma from the blood of coronavirus survivors can help treat current patients, a treatment that is experimental but shows promise.

The treatment is called Convalescent Plasma Therapy and it may be the right path to looking for a cure.

“As a human, I’m super excited about it,” said UCSF Professor of Medicine Dr. Peter Chin-Hong. “As a medical professional, I have guarded optimism.”

He said plasma therapy has been used to treat other coronaviruses including SARS and MERS.

“You take the antibodies from these people who have recovered and you basically put them into people who are battling the disease to give them extra ammunition to fight the virus,” Chin-Hong said. 

Within a couple of weeks, the technique will be available at UCSF and San Francisco General to fight COVID-19.

While doctors search for a cure, local leaders gathered to demand the FDA to lift a ban on gay and bisexual men giving blood, especially as the country’s blood and plasma supply is running critically low.

“This is undermining our ability to confront the COVID-19 crisis,” said California Senator Scott Weiner.

A crisis that has doctors like Chin-Hong looking for many treatments and while plasma therapy may help, he said it’s not the magic bullet.

“I think in the late stages of the disease, it will help a little, but it’s really going to help the people who are not so sick,” he said.

Blood banks are in need of every healthy donor but to help with the COVID-19 crisis specifically, doctors say the ideal donor should have recovered from the virus for about two weeks and be willing to be tested for antibodies.

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