As COVID-19 cases surge across the country, the American Red Cross warns that one treatment that could help the sickest patients is now in short supply: convalescent plasma.
Authorized by the Food and Drug Administration for emergency use in coronavirus patients back in, convalescent plasma is antibody-rich blood plasma, collected from donors who have recovered from COVID-19, that is given, via a blood transfusion, to infected patients struggling to fight the virus.
"We just simply can't keep up," Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer at the American Red Cross, told correspondent Elise Preston at CBS affiliate KRQE in Albuquerque, New Mexico. "We need as many of our recovered COVID-19 patients as possible to roll up their sleeves and come in and donate," Young said.
Early trials of the experimental treatment indicated a 35% better chance of survival when convalescent plasma was used in "optimal patients" — which studies indicate are patients in the early stages of infection, before the virus invades the tissue and causes.
While medical experts warn against portrayals of convalescent plasma as a magic bullet, researchers are finding areas of hope in their ongoing studies of the treatment. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that corrective plasma reduced the progression of COVID-19 in older adults "when given within 72 hours after the onset of mild Covid-19 symptoms."
"This is a disease that has, still, very few therapeutics. We're seeing very new studies come out that suggest that the earlier you give it, the better it is," Young said.
Amanda Solt, a front-line worker who contracted COVID-19 last year and is now recovered, is a strong believer in convalescent plasma. Last summer, Solt, an urgent care nurse in Georgia, found herself hospitalized with COVID-19 and struggling to breathe. "I've heard patients talk about it, but I never experienced it 'til that moment. You have a very overwhelming sense of doom," she said.
Solt, a grandmother whose condition was rapidly declining when she received convalescent plasma, recovered after receiving treatment and is now back to work, according to KRQU. She recently donated plasma herself, expressing deep gratitude for the nurses and plasma donors who contributed to her own recovery from the virus.
"How do you say thank you to that?" Solt told KRQU. "I could never, ever tell them thank you enough for giving me a second chance on life."
Information on how and where to donate plasma is available. Even those who don't have COVID-19 antibodies can still help: The American Red Cross says the need for standard blood and platelet donations is constant, especially during this pandemic.