The FDA’s recent move to grant emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma as a potential treatment for severe COVID-19 was met with controversy.  With many critics pointing out a lack of available data to support the treatment.  But now a small study has found evidence that convalescent plasma can be beneficial for some patients with severe COVID-19.

Based on this research, it does appear that convalescent plasma can bump up survival rates.  This new study had two separate groups of patients at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.  All of them had severe COVID-19.  Now, 39 patients received plasma treatments. And their outcomes were compared to 156 patients who were not given this experimental treatment.   And here’s what the researchers found:  on day 14, only 18% of patients who were treated with plasma therapy still needed oxygen supplementation.  Compared to 28% in the group who were not given the infusion that still needed oxygen.  And by the end of the study, 13% of the patients treated with convalescent plasma had died, compared to 24% of the patients who were not given the infusion that died.

We’ve talked about this before, but can you remind us what convalescent plasma is again? And if the study found any side effects?

Convalescent plasma is an old approach.  When you get an infection, your body goes into fighting mode and makes antibodies.  And the idea behind convalescent plasma is that people who have fought off a disease, in this case, it’s COVID-19, they can then donate their blood.  The blood gets processed so that only the plasma and antibodies are left behind.  And by giving survivors’ blood that is rich in antibodies to those battling severe COVID-19, this will hopefully jumpstart their immune system and help them to recover.

Did the study find any side effects?  And is there any downside to this study based on how small it was?

The good news is that the researchers did not find any serious adverse side effects that were caused by the plasma therapy.  So at this point, it does appear to be safe.  And, yes, since this study was small, and the downside is that we really need more high-quality studies to really confirm these results.  But so far, looking at this study, convalescent plasma does appear to help some folks who are very ill with COVID-19.