SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — Sanford Health says a critically ill patient has received a transfusion of plasma from a recovered coronavirus patient, the first use of the therapy by the health care provider.

Sanford’s treatment is part of a national clinical trial to test the effect of blood plasma in treating COVID-19. The use of plasma is for hospitalized patients with severe cases of coronavirus. The plasma may lessen severity or shorten the length of the illness caused by the virus.

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“This is another step forward in our efforts to find effective treatments for this virus,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, chief medical officer for Sanford Health. “It’s still early, but we are optimistic that the disease-fighting antibodies found in plasma could potentially slow the progression of the disease in our sickest patients.”

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Because the therapy is still considered experimental, the plasma is being administered under a program led by Mayo Clinic.

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Sanford’s first patient receiving the therapy is in Fargo, North Dakota. A number of Sanford Health sites are participating in the program.

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