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FDA says it is expediting the use of a blood plasma treatment as New York begins to roll out new clinical trials

Experts discuss.

Posted: Mar 25, 2020 9:21 AM
Updated: Mar 25, 2020 9:21 AM

The US Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday said it is expediting the use of a blood plasma treatment for patients seriously ill with the coronavirus, making it easier for doctors to try another tool to attack the illness.

The FDA said in a news release that it is "facilitating access" for patients with life threatening infections to blood plasma taken from a person who recovered after once testing positive for the virus.

It's a treatment the state of New York is pursuing in clinical trials, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Tuesday.

The process, known as plasma-derived therapy or "convalescent plasma," involves doctors testing the plasma of people who recovered for antibodies to the virus and then injecting that plasma, or a derivative of it, into the sick person.

The move is a "big step" forward, said Dr. Arturo Casadevall, chief of molecular microbiology and immunology at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who has advocated for the plasma treatment.

"It has a high likelihood of working but we won't know whether it works until its done" and enough patients have been treated, he said. "We do know based on history it has a good chance."

Rolling out trials

The move comes as the US recorded its deadliest day since the outbreak began. More than 150 deaths from Covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, were reported in the US on Tuesday, according to a tally by CNN. At least 700 people in the US have died and more than 53,000 have tested positive for the virus.

Cuomo said his state is also pursuing testing people's blood for antibodies and immunity to coronavirus.

"That would be very important for us to know because then healthcare workers that could go back to work, there are workers that could return back to the private sector."

The New York State Department of Health is also rolling out clinical test trials for anti-malaria drug Hydroxychloroquine and the antibiotic Azithromycin. The patients who are hospitalized with moderate or severe coronavirus will be eligible to receive the treatment.

"Those are the patients that we think can have the greatest impact so we want to focus on them," according to a New York health official.

A second New York University trial is exploring if Hydroxychloroquine can be used as a preventative measure to preemptively treat people who don't have the virus but are in contact with those who do, according to an email seen by CNN that was sent by a member of the NY Health Department's Institutional Review Board.

Logistics are the biggest issue

The New York health official said for the plasma treatment they will be recruiting patients from New Rochelle, which had the first cluster of cases in the state and now has a critical mass of people who have recovered.

Plasma treatments will take time to get off the ground.

Physicians will need to identify patients who now test negative for the disease, extract their plasma and have it tested for antibodies for Covid-19 before it can be deployed to ill patients. If there are enough antibodies in plasma it can kill the disease, some doctors say.

The FDA is limiting the plasma treatment to the most seriously ill patients.

The New York health official acknowledged finding a good candidate and providing plasma could take days, but the official said they are expediting this process to just a few days.

"The biggest issue is the logistics. You've got to find the people, you've got to test them, identify the right donors, donate plasma and get it to the people who need it. That involves logistics but it's all doable we're not talking about rocket science," said Casadevall. He says he's been overwhelmed with people who want to donate their plasma and doctors around the world who want to understand the potential treatment.

Casadevall has set up a website where he hopes to post more information in the next few days.

Plasma treatments have been used since 1900s

He anticipates doctors could know in as soon as one month whether the plasma treatment is working if they get enough volunteers to donate their plasma.

Plasma treatments have been used since the 1900s to treat infectious diseases like influenza and more recently Ebola. China has used this treatment in its Covid-19 positive patients and says it is working although US doctors have not yet seen the underlying data.

Casadevall said it's largely safe but there are always risks, including whether someone passes along a pathogen that wasn't identified earlier.

He said the treatment might not work if the patients are too critical. In 2009, he said, there was a trial to treat influenza using plasma but some of the patients were already too sick for the antibodies to work. He said their dire situation had less to do with the virus and more to do with inflammation.

In New York, he said, the treatment will be given to people who are already very ill, but he hopes it will get to the point where doctors can prescribe it to patients who are diagnosed much earlier.

Minnesota Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 604687

Reported Deaths: 7643
CountyCasesDeaths
Hennepin1250161780
Ramsey52519898
Dakota46852471
Anoka42789458
Washington27436291
Stearns22561225
St. Louis18146313
Scott17553137
Wright16383149
Olmsted13406102
Sherburne1202795
Carver1067448
Clay826592
Rice8204110
Blue Earth762744
Crow Wing681895
Kandiyohi668185
Chisago620152
Otter Tail586284
Benton582998
Goodhue484074
Douglas475781
Mower470533
Winona461451
Itasca460163
Isanti440364
McLeod430961
Morrison424962
Beltrami407962
Nobles407750
Steele397816
Polk389072
Becker386755
Lyon363853
Carlton353056
Freeborn347133
Pine334923
Nicollet331345
Mille Lacs311854
Brown308040
Le Sueur297326
Cass286332
Todd285633
Meeker263543
Waseca238023
Martin235333
Roseau211221
Wabasha20793
Hubbard196641
Dodge18783
Renville182846
Redwood176539
Houston174616
Cottonwood167124
Wadena163423
Fillmore157610
Faribault155219
Chippewa154038
Pennington153820
Kanabec146828
Sibley146810
Aitkin138937
Watonwan13579
Rock128719
Jackson122812
Pipestone116726
Yellow Medicine115020
Pope11306
Murray107110
Swift106918
Koochiching95518
Stevens92411
Clearwater89016
Marshall88817
Lake83220
Wilkin83213
Lac qui Parle75622
Big Stone6044
Grant5948
Lincoln5853
Mahnomen5669
Norman5479
Kittson49022
Unassigned48393
Red Lake4017
Traverse3775
Lake of the Woods3453
Cook1720

Iowa Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371226

Reported Deaths: 6056
CountyCasesDeaths
Polk58274641
Linn21241339
Scott20311248
Black Hawk16180312
Woodbury15241230
Johnson1462285
Dubuque13515211
Dallas1129499
Pottawattamie11233174
Story1072048
Warren583891
Clinton561593
Cerro Gordo554196
Sioux517674
Webster516094
Muscatine4884106
Marshall487176
Des Moines467672
Wapello4337122
Buena Vista427040
Jasper421172
Plymouth403181
Lee382556
Marion366176
Jones301057
Henry294537
Bremer288761
Carroll287252
Boone268534
Crawford268340
Benton260355
Washington257551
Dickinson249344
Mahaska232751
Jackson225242
Clay216727
Kossuth216166
Tama212271
Delaware211143
Winneshiek198935
Page194522
Buchanan194133
Cedar192323
Hardin187544
Fayette186943
Wright186140
Hamilton182051
Harrison179973
Clayton171157
Butler166535
Madison164519
Mills163924
Floyd163542
Cherokee159338
Lyon158941
Poweshiek157136
Allamakee152852
Hancock150334
Iowa149724
Winnebago144531
Cass139255
Calhoun138813
Grundy137433
Emmet135841
Jefferson133335
Shelby131637
Sac130920
Union130035
Louisa129849
Appanoose129049
Mitchell126743
Chickasaw124917
Franklin123523
Guthrie123332
Humboldt119626
Palo Alto113523
Howard105022
Montgomery103638
Clarke101124
Keokuk96832
Monroe96431
Unassigned9550
Ida91635
Adair87432
Pocahontas85822
Davis85325
Monona83431
Osceola78917
Greene78011
Lucas77923
Worth7628
Taylor66812
Fremont6279
Decatur6169
Ringgold56424
Van Buren56418
Wayne54423
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Adams3444
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