COVID-19 survivors wanted for convalescent plasma trial
EDMONTON -- As a growing number of Albertans catch and recover from COVID-19, Canadian Blood Services is renewing its call for plasma donors.
It’s looking for coronavirus survivors to be part of a large national clinical trial of convalescent plasma therapy.
“Convalescent plasma is working on the idea that for someone whose recovered from COVID, they have in their bloodstream antibody molecules that are able to attack and kill the virus,” said Canadian Blood Services chief scientist Dana Devine.
The trial, known as CONCOR-1, launched in May and so far about 450 COVID-19 patients have received the treatment including some from the Royal Alexandra Hospital, University of Alberta Hospital and Sturgeon Community Hospital.
“We have not yet put enough patients into the trial to do what is called an interim analysis to understand if it's working,” said Devine.
“There are some smaller trials that have been done in other countries, and studies that are not this kind of randomized trial, that have suggestion in the data that convalescent plasma should work, if you get it in the patients early in the disease.”
TREATMENT A ‘GREAT HOPE’
MacEwan University instructor Bob Graves caught COVID-19 at a medical curling bonspiel in March.
He says the first few days he had mild symptoms and continued to work from home, then the virus really hit.
“I have friends who are physicians and they were just about on the verge of telling me to get to an emergency room,” said Graves. “It really kicked the bejeebers out of me but then it started getting better."
Graves has long donated blood but after getting sick, he heard about the convalescent plasma trial and decided to sign up.
“So it was right at the end of May and I gave them an initial donation and that's where they measured the amount of antibodies you have for coronavirus.”
Graves soon learned his plasma made the cut, then he started donating weekly.
“If they can take something out of me and pump it into someone else and that helps them get over this, well, those kind of treatment opportunities, right now, they're a great hope.”
THE NEED FOR NEW DONORS
In September, Graves found out the antibody levels in his plasma had diminished to the point where he could no longer help, something that happens to all trial donors.
“Your antibody levels will remain fairly high in your blood for about four, maybe five months, and then they start to fall,” said Devine. “So what we need to do is we always need to be getting new donors into the system."
To donate or for more information, head to the Canadian Blood Services website.