Stony Brook Medicine, the umbrella company under which Stony Brook University hospitals and clinics operate, is asking for blood donations from survivors of COVID-19, as part of a federally-approved research project to see if blood plasma from survivors can be used to treat patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infections.
Kali Chan, a spokesperson for Stony Brook Medicine, said in a press release April 9 that “researchers are collecting the convalescent serum to use in an experimental treatment strategy for those battling the disease.”
“Plasma, the liquid portion of blood, which helps with clotting and supporting immunity, contains antibodies that can potentially be used to kill the virus,” she said.
On April 2, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved Stony Brook University Hospital’s application to offer the treatment to its patients through a randomized, controlled study and is expected to enroll up to 500 patients from the Long Island area.
The study is being run by Dr. Elliott Bennett-Guerrero, medical director of perioperative quality and patient safety and professor and vice chair of clinical research and innovation for the Renaissance School of Medicine Department of Anesthesiology.
As in all studies, some patients will receive the potentially lifesaving serum, while others will receive plasma without the antibodies. This is done to ensure scientists can confirm the efficacy of using a new drug or serum being tested. Given the dire need for the novel coronavirus treatment now, however, instead of a random 50-50 distribution split between serum and placebo, 80 percent of the patients participating will be given the serum.
“We are fast-tracking this large-scale clinical trial,” Dr. Bennett-Guerrero said, “as every second counts when seeking lifesaving treatment for these critically ill patients.”
The use of serum rich with antibodies to help cure disease goes back over 100 years to the influenza pandemic of 1918, and was used most recently during the outbreak of Ebola in 2014.
For the study to work, blood donations from survivors is vital.
Those interested can go to www.stonybrookmedicine.edu/COVID_donateplasma. After filling out a survey, those potentially eligible will be asked to participate in a screening visit at a Stony Brook Medicine facility. The screening visit will take approximately 30 minutes, Chan said.
“You do not need to be a Stony Brook University Hospital patient to participate, but you must meet required criteria for plasma donation and have high levels of antibodies to the virus that causes COVID-19,” she said.
Stony Brook Medicine is collaborating with Chembio Diagnostic Systems, a public company based on Long Island, to conduct testing.