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Coronavirus Update: 'Convalescent Plasma' Treatment Could Help Current COVID-19 Patients

BURLINGAME (KPIX 5) -- Scientists say something called "convalescent plasma" may hold promise in treating people with the coronavirus, but research is being held up by the current lack of testing.

Burlingame police officer Steve Vega is back to work now after a three-week battle with the coronavirus. After testing clean of the virus, Vega took it upon himself to call Stanford Medical to see if his blood could be of use to their research.

"They were very excited to have my plasma, because -- from what they're telling me -- I would be one of the first to provide this," Vega said. "And that's even more of a great feeling knowing I'm one of the first."

Plasma is the fluid in the bloodstream that carries red cells and antibodies throughout the body. There is hope that convalescent plasma drawn from people who survived the virus can help those who are still sick.

"In theory, if you give a large enough dose early enough in the disease process, the antibodies in the convalescent plasma will neutralize the viral particles in the blood stream of that individual," explained Dr. David Rich of New York's Mt. Sinai Hospital. "And that could lead to a milder course of disease and it could lead to fewer complications."

Officer Vega recovered on his own without the help of convalescent plasma, because there is no current organized antibody testing to even identify those who may have recovered from the disease.

The Vitalant Blood Center collects plasma every day for other illnesses and says it is ready to take donations from recovered COVID-19 patients. It will be up to them to get tested first.

The center says they require medical confirmation that a donor has fully recovered and has antibodies for COVID-19.  Then, any single donation received can help up to three seriously ill patients

"People have to go out and find that test and get that antibody test that proves that they had COVID-19 and they're fully recovered from it," said Vitalant spokesperson Kevin Adler. "Once that is done, they can come in and donate and possibly help a critically ill patient who's currently battling COVID-19."

Until there's a more unified effort, Officer Vega is hoping other survivors will step up and become donors so he can be the first of many.

"Because there's a lot of people out there in this country, or even locally here in the Bay Area, that have recovered from this. And you know who you are," said Vega.


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