Image via Central California Blood Center's Facebook.
Written by Donald A. Promnitz
The Central California Blood Center in Fresno is joining the fight to find a treatment for COVID-19, and is going the extra mile for patient safety.
Christopher Staub, president and CEO of the CCBC said they were recruited by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to collect blood for convalescent plasma, or plasma from a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 and has built antibodies that can then boost the immune system of the recipient.
“Three weeks ago, we had no idea we’d be doing this,” Staub said. “And then, when Dr. Peter Marks of the FDA said he’s willing to cut through red tape and let this product go to the patients under emergency use, we all were very excited and knew we had to help out.”
While this method hasn’t been officially proven for COVID-19, it has worked for other viruses. Six patients were also treated with convalescent plasma in China, resulting in the recovery of five.
Blood banks across the country are getting involved in collecting blood for convalescent plasma, but according to Staub, the Central California Blood Center is currently the only one to deploy a process called “pathogen inactivation.”
Typically, when blood is donated, there is a (remote) possibility that bacteria or other unwanted agents may attach themselves to the platelets. This can result in an infection for the patient. With inactivation, a sterile substance called Psoralin is added to the plasma/platelets, eliminating the pathogens and making the platelets that much safer to use. The process usually takes between 24 and 48 hours from the time of collection to complete.
In order for a patient to donate, they have to test negative for COVID-19 after being previously diagnosed. Then there’s a minimum waiting time of 14 days, but longer waits are ideal, as it gives them time to build up even more antibodies. So far, there have been no patients to donate, but they hope that will change this week.
“We’ve also notified the hospitals and key infectious disease physicians in the hospitals, as well as the Fresno-Madera Medical Society and any other physician contacts,” Staub said. “We’re trying to spread the word.”
The CCBC is also working closely with the Fresno County Department of Public Health to find donors.