Mayo Clinic leads research on 'encouraging' plasma treatment for COVID-19

As more people become infected with the coronavirus, one of the therapies the FDA is exploring is the use of convalescent blood plasma from people who have already recovered. The Mayo Clinic is leading the research on behalf of the FDA and, so far, the results are encouraging.

It all begins with the blood. In theory, the antibody-rich plasma from patients who have just recovered by COVID-19 is transfused into patients who are fighting the virus.

And in two short weeks, the investigation is up and running.

“As of this morning we have 1,663 hospitals and acute care facilities signed up…2,300 patients have signed consent forms to be part of the study, and over 750 have received convalescent plasma. I’m also told that as of this morning 20 patients in Minnesota alone have received the plasma,” said Dr. Scott Wright, Mayo Clinic cardiologist and clinical researcher.  

Mayo has a bio statistician who is processing the data and sending it to the FDA. With nearly real-time results, the FDA can determine whether the plasma treatments are helpful, neutral or harmful.

“We can say with some degree of reassurance that no harm has been seen,” Dr. Wright said. “The anecdotal reports are promising, but they are simply anecdotal and it’s too early to make a firm scientific conclusion on the benefits.”

The program still needs much more convalescent plasma so it can treat more patients to have a better understanding on if it really works.

“We would like to see several thousand people receive convalescent plasma or more. One person donating can generally treat about two hospitalized patients. So, if we can find five thousand people across the United States who have already recovered and donate, we could easily treat 10,000 people which would give the FDA a large data source to analyze… and if we can even exceed those numbers, it would be fabulous,” he said.

Mayo Clinic has created a website that answers most questions about the convalescent plasma program, including links on where you can donate if you have tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered: