COVID-19 Survivor Urges Community to Donate Convalescent Plasma as Potential Treatment

In a nationwide effort to study convalescent plasma as a potential treatment for COVID-19, UCLA is encouraging members of the community who have recovered from coronavirus to donate blood plasma as part of a clinical trial. One of the many COVID-19 survivors, 51-year-old Michelle Simonne, dutifully answered the call and is sharing her experience with others to support COVID-19 patients.

In December 2019, weeks before the COVID-19 outbreak was confirmed in the United States, Simonne became seriously ill with what she believed was pneumonia. Sick for multiple weeks, her symptoms were consistent with the novel coronavirus. After a successful recovery, her neighbor who works at UCLA suggested she have her blood tested for the disease-fighting antibodies. She was surprised when the results showed that her immune system had developed antibodies to fight and protect her from the virus.

“This was such a gift to be able to do something about this,” said Simonne “My antibodies and my plasma could actually help someone fight the infection or stop it in its tracks.”

Convalescent plasma is a liquid component collected from the blood of people who have recovered from COVID-19. There is currently no treatment for COVID-19 but small studies suggest that antibodies may help people recover. This type of treatment is not new; convalescent plasma was used to help those who suffered from the Spanish Flu, SARS, MERS, H1N1 and other viruses.

“Patients [around the world] have been able to be taken of mechanical ventilation and have even been discharged after being treated with convalescent blood,” said Dr. Alyssa Ziman, medical director of transfusion medicine in the UCLA Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine.

More than 850 patients have signed up to donate their convalescent plasma. Those who have tested positive for COVID-19  and meet blood donation requirements are encouraged to register and take the survey on the UCLA COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Donation website to see whether they are eligible. Antibody testing is not currently being offered as part of this study.

In addition to potentially saving lives, the clinical trial will help researchers better understand antibody response to COVID-19, test development for neutralizing antibodies, and the relationship between the amount and type of antibody in convalescent plasma units and patients' response to plasma treatment.

“It’s just a small way that I can help on the frontlines without actually being there,” added Simonne.

UCLA is one of more than 50 institutions across the country participating in the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project.


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