Apheresis

Mary Moorhouse (MLS ’07), Manager of the Blood and Tissue Banks at Sinai and Northwest Hospitals and Melissa Fisher (MLS ’17), Blood Bank, Sinai Hospital are making a difference for those infected with COVID-19.  The Sinai Hospital Blood Bank is part of an investigational study, along with the Mayo Clinic and the American Red Cross to utilize convalescent plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma is harvested from donors using a process called apheresis. Apheresis or in this case, more specifically plasmapheresis, is similar to a blood donation. However, only plasma is harvested. Red and white blood cells are then returned to the donor via a second needle placed in the donors other arm. Each donor has the potential to help up to three patients.

Convalescent plasma is rich in antibodies and those who’ve recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies to spare. Of course, donors will be screened for other infectious diseases such as HIV or Hepatitis and other proteins that could harm the recipient. Each patient will receive a unit, or about a cup, of the donor plasma in the form of a transfusion. As with blood transfusions, donor and recipient must have matching blood types.

Using convalescent plasma to treat patients is providing passive immunity and is not unusual. It’s most recently been used to treat those with Ebola, SARS and MERS. SARS and MERS are two other forms of Coronavirus. While the data supporting the use of convalescent antibodies in the SARS and MERS epidemics is anecdotal, there is hope that with more controlled studies and data collection, this could provide relief to those suffering with COVID-19. The US Food and Drug Administration has provided guidance for the investigational use of convalescent plasma and the American Red Cross has release guidance for donating plasma in those who've recovered from COVID-19.

Mary and Melissa are working tirelessly in support of this investigational study to identify those who’ve recovered from COVID-19, are able and willing to donate and to secure the donations. It is hoped that with controlled use and increased collection of data, the use of convalescent plasma will become a viable treatment option for those suffering the respiratory symptoms that accompany COVID-19 infection.

Thank you Mary and Melissa for showcasing the crucial and multi-faceted roles that medical laboratory professionals play in the healthcare setting, especially during this crisis.  The Stevenson University MLS Program is extremely proud of all of our alumni working on the front lines every day to ensure the health and safety of patients everywhere.

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