The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center released a statement saying medical teams around West Texas have joined a study through the Mayo Clinic to treat COVID-19 patients whose symptoms are severe with convalescent plasma.

“This may be the most promising treatment we have at this time,” Steven Berk, TTUHSC Executive Vice President and School of Medicine Dean, said, according to the release. “This is one of the many reasons having our medical schools in Lubbock, Amarillo and the Permian Basin benefits people living in those communities. TTUHSC’s access to partnerships allows us to deliver the latest treatment options to patients in West Texas. We were able to shepherd this project into the area within 48 hours.”

Thomas Hale, associate dean for research in Amarillo and Afzal Siddiqui, vice president for institutional collaborations, have worked to mobilize the efforts to carry out the Investigational New Drug program application through the Mayo Clinic and Baylor College of Medicine, according to the release. The IND program entitled “Expanded Access to Convalescent Plasma for the Treatment of Patients with COVID-19,” is U.S. government-sponsored and FDA approved

“This is a result of focused work from a team of people at TTUHSC,” Berk said, according to the release. “We are also grateful to our hospital partners that provide us the facilities to make these treatments possible.”

Patients are being treated at various medical centers in Amarillo and Lubbock, according to the release. Tech pulmonologist Victor Test is the main investigator in Lubbock and Mark Sigler, Tech pulmonologist and critical care physician, is the main investigator in Amarillo.

“During a pandemic such as this, we need to be scientific in quickly identifying potential therapies and then assessing their effectiveness,” Sigler said, according to the release. “Working with the Mayo Clinic as a study site for using convalescent plasma in the management of COVID-19 was a clear opportunity to meaningfully contribute to our knowledge of how to best treat COVID-19.”

Antibodies develop and help a person fight off future attacks of COVID-19 after they recover from the virus, according to the release. Plasma of recovered patients is taken and infused into a person still infected with COVID-19. This method gives those infected the opportunity to form antibodies made from the donor that are specific to the new strain of the virus. This method has been used to treat infections like as Ebola and SARS in the past.

The process of donating plasma is a similar to donating blood as plasma collection uses a machine separating red blood cells from plasma, according to the release. The red blood cells are returned to the donor once the plasma is collected, and donated plasma is stored and distributed for treatment as needed. Those recovered patients who are interested in donating can make an appointment at area blood centers through their physicians, the health department or through a donor registry.

According to the release, in order to provide their convalescent plasma, donors must be able to donate blood and meet requirements including:

  • Previous positive diagnosis of COVID-19 that has been documented by a test
  • Current negative results for COVID-19 and symptom-free for 14 days before donating
  • No history of pregnancy or negative for HLA antibodies in women

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