Rutgers doctors, University Hospital say use of COVID-19 survivors’ plasma presents ‘real hope for saving lives’

Officials make appeal for blood donations from convalescents, saying it could help with experimental treatment that is showing promise

By Tom Bergeron
Newark | Apr 20, 2020 at 6:00 am

Rutgers University physicians and University Hospital are making an appeal for blood donations from those who have survived COVID-19, saying their blood plasma contains antibodies that may help critically ill patients fight, and perhaps conquer, the virus.

The physicians, who received FDA approval Friday to use blood plasma from patients who recovered from COVID-19 to treat new patients, have thus far treated 17 patients with convalescent plasma. FDA approval is pending for the use of this treatment for additional patients.

Health care officials say the effectiveness of this treatment is not yet known, though similar treatment has been studied for Ebola and the MERS virus.

Marc Klapholz, chair of the department of medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and University Hospital and the principal investigator for the use of convalescent COVID-19 plasma, said there is promise.

“The use of convalescent plasma — blood plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 — presents real hope for saving lives,” Klapholz said.

University Hospital CEO Shereef Elnahal, the former state health commissioner, said he’s thrilled the Newark hospital is at the forefront of the trial of a technique that has been helpful in other outbreaks.

“In our battle against the COVID-19 virus, we are excited to be trialing this potential life-saving therapy in partnership with Rutgers New Jersey Medical School,” he said. “This treatment plan has been used for more than 100 years to address disease outbreaks for other conditions, and we’re optimistic that it will save lives.”

Elnahal and Klapholtz said they are hoping those who have survived the illness will step forward.

There certainly are plenty of potential donors. More than 50,000 people in New Jersey have survived COVID-19.

People interested in donating plasma must have had a confirmed positive test for COVID-19 from a lab or health facility and be eligible to donate blood. They can reach the Rutgers and University Hospital COVID-19 Treatment Group at 973-972-5474 or via email at covidplasma@uhnj.org.

Read more from ROI-NJ on coronavirus: