MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Mayo Clinic has reported that, according to the results of their studies, using convalescent plasma to treat patients with COVID-19 appears to be safe for a diverse range of patients.

WCCO’s Kate Raddatz has followed the convalescent plasma program out of the Mayo since it started just over two months ago. Convalescent plasma treatment involves transfusing blood plasma from someone who recovered from COVID-19 and showed antibodies against the virus.

The Mayo Clinic’s new report assessed patients at risk for severe or life-threatening effects from the virus, seven days after their plasma transfusion. They found mortality rates declined to 8.6%, compared to to 12% from a previous safety study.

Serious side effects occurred in less than 1% of patients, or 146 out of the 20,000 involved in the study. Serious side effects included lung injury and allergic reactions to the blood transfusion.

One interesting key in this study is that it encompassed a diverse pool. Of the patients, 40% were women, 20% were African-Americans; nearly 35% were Hispanic and 5% were Asian-American.

“It’s been observed that COVID-19, especially in the big cities back east, has been particularly devastating among ethnic minorities: African-Americans, Hispanics, ethnic communities. So we’re pleased we can recruit participants in those categories. It’s horrible that these groups are disproportionately affected, but we’re gratified that they are participating in the study,” Dr. Michael Joyner said.

The study assessed 20,000 patients that were hospitalized between April 3 and June 11.

The Mayo says the results are a promising step in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, but the safety report stops short of declaring convalescent plasma therapy as an effective treatment option. Joyner says that would require more studies to take into account patient severity, the quality of the plasma, and outcomes compared to patients who did not get plasma.

“This general trend towards lower mortality rates is certainly encouraging,” Joyner said.

Researchers still need people who have tested positive for antibodies to donate blood plasma.

Kate Raddatz

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