Even as hospitals across southern Louisiana fight to keep enough beds open to care for their patients, other work is ongoing to help find solutions to the coronavirus outbreak that is plaguing the nation.
At Iberia Medical Center, one way to add to the effort in that fight is the hospital’s participation in a convalescent plasma therapy trial under the auspices of the Mayo Clinic.
“Researchers hope that convalescent plasma can be given to patients with severe COVID-19 to boost their ability to fight the virus,” IMC Marketing Director Lisa Landry said. “It also may keep patients who are moderately ill from becoming more ill and experiencing COVID-19 complications.”
Convalescent plasma refers to blood plasma collected from people who have recovered from COVID-19. That plasma is then used to treat others with advanced illness. The plasma donor must have recovered from, and tested negative for, COVID-19 and be otherwise healthy. The patient is transfused with the donor’s plasma, which contains antibodies that can attack the virus and may help patients recover more rapidly.
As part of the Mayo Clinic effort, IMC is seeking people who have been through the COVID-19 illness to donate their plasma to be used in the study.
“Community members who have recovered from COVID-19 should consider donating plasma,” Landry said.
Dr. Moses Kitakule, who has been directing the IMC COVID-19 response, is the hospital’s principal investigator in the trial. Kitakule was able to draw on his experience during the AIDS epidemic in the early 1990s to help guide the IMC staff as the hospital has navigated the COVID-19 outbreak.
“That experience, of course, had tense moments,” Kitakule said during an interview in May. “We had an ICU full of patients. But this was totally different. This was very rapid. It came up much more quickly. The timeline was much more compressed.”
Now, with some therapies in trials and lessons learned from the first onslaught of the disease in March and April to draw on, the IMC staff are using new tools and guidelines. One addition to the hospital’s arsenal is the drug Remdesivir, one of the treatments found to lessen the blow of COVID-19.
The Mayo Clinic Convalescent Plasma Trial is made up of a group of physicians and scientists from 57 institutions in 46 states who have self-organized for the purpose of investigating the use of convalescent plasma in the current COVID-19 pandemic.