As COVID-19 vaccines are being introduced, a researcher at Wayne State University continues work on blood plasma treatment trials that began in November.
Dr. James Paxton, assistant professor in the Wayne State School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine, has been the primary investigator for two outpatient studies of treatments that use blood plasma from people who have had COVID-19. The convalescent plasma, as it’s called, contains antibodies that help fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
“Not only do we have to limit the spread of this disease, but we have to be as aggressive as we can in treating it,” says Paxton, who is also an emergency physician at DMC Sinai-Grace and Detroit Receiving hospitals, both in Detroit. “I think convalescent plasma is one therapeutic option that’s going to prove to be effective. We hope it’s going to be as safe as it has been in other iterations and with other applications.”
Sponsored through Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the months-long study aims to recruit at least 1,400 volunteers nationwide. Wayne State is one of 24 participating research entities and the only site in Michigan.
The first study seeks to use the antibodies contained in plasma to protect people who have recently been exposed to COVID-19 but haven’t yet become ill. The second will use the plasma on recently diagnosed people who have not been admitted to a hospital in hopes that it will slow or eliminate COVID-19 symptoms.
The study is slated to be finished with enrollment by mid-March and will continue to seek participants until then. Paxton says that those who have received plasma in a study can also receive the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available.
While the vaccine’s efficacy has been shown to be very promising, Paxton says treatments like these are for those few who are vaccinated and may still become ill.
“We don’t know, for example, how many people are going to be able to enjoy the protection from the vaccine. We need treatments for the 5 percent of people that the vaccine might not help,” Paxton says.
The medical community has been infusing antibody-containing blood plasma taken from one patient into another for more than a century, Paxton says. Similar strategies were used as far back as the 1918 Spanish Flu epidemic.
“I think all of us would love to see this become something like the flu that we deal with on a small scale every year — controllable, and not the pandemic we’re facing today,” he says.
Participants will be compensated. Those interested in participating can find more information here or call (888) 506-1199