Doctors want blood from COVID survivors

September 10, 2020

There is a call for persons who have recovered from COVID-19 to volunteer their plasma (the fluid part of blood) which contain antibodies that could treat patients who are critically ill with the virus.

The call comes from Dr Gilian Wharfe, consultant haematologist/oncologist at the University Hospital of the West Indies, who is prinicpal investigator in a sanctioned study on the topic.

Wharfe told THE STAR that in global trials, there have been reports of successful outcomes and a reduction in the length of time patients spend in hospitals.

"There was also a reduction of days that persons spend on the ventilator but the limitation that it had is that these are not what we call controlled trials, so what we want to demonstrate with the trial is the impact of the intervention, and in order to do that, you will have to have a group that gets the intervention and one that does not and notch them as closely as possible and compare them," she said. Wharfe said her team is seeking to treat 30 patients, but they need more participants. Only one man has donated plasma up to yesterday.

"We have had a number of persons who have responded by completing the forms but nowhere near the kind of participation we may need. Once they complete the form, we will make contact with them to get a time for them to come for the pre-testing that is required," she said. Up to yesterday, 1,019 persons had recovered from COVID-19 in Jamaica, while eight patients are critically ill. Wharfe said her team is hoping to get 60 donors in order to have an adequate supply of all the blood groups.

"If we have somebody who is ill and needing the plasma, we don't have to wait to find a donor. We could just reach into the freezer and get the group because some groups will be over represented in the donor population because of how common they are," she said.

Wharfe said the pre-testing sessions involve tests for infections that can be transmitted by blood, and to see the level of antibodies an individual carries, as they are seeking donors with higher levels.

"Some of those who came didn't meet the requirement so we could not use them, so we still need a large number of persons to volunteer," she said.

Wharfe noted that some persons are fearful that their identities would be made public.

"We can assure them that there will be just about three persons who will know who they are, and that includes myself, the person who interviews them and the person who is operating the machine that is harvesting their plasma," she said.

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