COVID-19 presents us with one of the most significant clinical challenges we have faced in modern medicine. The speed with which transmission occurs, coupled with the fast-paced changes to prevention, transmission, testing and treatment guidelines, have presented us with a new challenge. Finding a viable solution to this crisis requires a collective, aggressive response — one that stretches across the Baptist Health System and our community partners.
In partnership with the Kentucky Blood Center, Baptist Health is using plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients as a potential treatment option. The hope is that recovered antibodies from patients who have fully recovered from COVID-19 can be used to help improve outcomes for those struggling to overcome the virus. This week, Baptist Health Lexington employed this treatment for two critically ill patients.
Recognizing the potential benefit was the first step. This method, convalescent plasma therapy, has historically been used to treat various illnesses such as the bird flu, Ebola and SARS virus.
“In an attempt to help our more critically ill COVID-19 patients we initiated an investigational compassionate plea FDA protocol using convalescent plasma therapy,” said Dr. Mark Dougherty, infectious disease specialist, and hospital epidemiologist at Baptist Health Lexington. “Dr. Firas Badin, medical director for Research, obtained FDA approval and Institutional Review Board approval. Dr. Badin and the Kentucky Blood Center worked quickly to set up the program,” Dr. Dougherty shared. While it remains early for conclusive evidence, the initial results of this treatment are encouraging, considering the 50-80 percent mortality rate for patients in critically ill condition.
The first two patients to receive this treatment at Baptist Health Lexington are improving and doctors are “cautiously optimistic” about their conditions. “We don’t know if this is going to be the appropriate treatment,” said Dr. Firas Badin, medical director for research at Baptist Health Lexington. “Certainly, we have big hopes for it; otherwise we would not do it.”
“I think we all think the ultimate answer here is a vaccine,” Dr. Dougherty said. “We don’t have a vaccine right now … and this is essentially a way of giving someone a vaccine that’s immediately effective when you give it.”
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Baptist Health is now expanding its capacity to offer this treatment option across its eight-hospital system by looking for recovered patients in communities across the state to volunteer to donate plasma. “Baptist Health system is putting together a process for signing up volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma,” said Larry Gray, president of Baptist Health Louisville.
Micheal Stephens, Executive Director of Research for Baptist Health, is leading the rollout of the system-wide volunteer donor effort. “The research program has provided resources at each site to assist in the screening process and the eventual match to a recipient who fits the severe or life-threatening category established by the FDA,” Stephens said.
Baptist Health is seeking volunteers to make an impact in the fight against COVID-19. If you have recovered from COVID-19, Baptist Health may contact you to discuss participation as a donor in this treatment program. Potential donors “must be symptom-free for at least 28 days with a follow-up antibody test, or symptom-free for 14 days with a negative COVID-19 follow-up test. Other requirements, including those associated with any blood donation, also apply.
It’s with a spirit of gratitude and optimism that Baptist Health thanks these recovered patients for choosing to make a difference.
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