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New Research Finds Thousands Of COVID Deaths May Be Linked To Reduced Use Of Convalescent Plasma

BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has new research that shows thousands of COVID-19 deaths may be linked to a drop in the use of convalescent plasma as a therapy treatment.

Since August of 2020, convalescent plasma has been approved for emergency use for the treatment of COVID-19. The plasma is taken from people who have recovered from the disease and is given to those struggling with it.

The Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health has been studying the connection between the use of this therapy and mortality rates.

"What we did was something very simple. We basically look at how much has been used and what was the mortality," explained Dr. Arturo Casadevall, Professor of Molecular Microbiology and Immunology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Dr. Casadevall is the head of the study. He said they have found that a slowdown in the use of convalescent plasma led to a higher death rate during the critical winter surge. It may have led to as many as 29,000 more COVID-19-related deaths.

"To put this in perspective, in October, about 40 percent of all the patients in U.S. hospitals were receiving plasma. By March, it had dropped to 10 percent," Dr. Casadevall explained.

Initially, the research about the efficacy of plasma produced mixed results.  The use of the treatment declined after several large clinical trials showed no apparent benefit. As a result, researchers believe many doctors were uncertain about using it as a form of treatment.

Dr. Casadevall is urging doctors to take a careful look at this most recent data for future treatment of the disease. "I think that the benefit outweighs the risk and you're looking at a situation of potentially saving lives. So, it's worthwhile to really consider using it."

Casadevall said that evidence shows that convalescent plasma is best used early on, generally within the first day a person is admitted to the hospital.

Correction: An earlier version of this headline had an error. It should have read, new research finds thousands of covid deaths may be linked to reduce use of convalescent plasma. 

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