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Plasma from former COVID-19 patient used to treat infected person for first time in North Texas

It may be a few days before doctors know if the infusion is working

FORT WORTH, Texas — Sunday and Monday at Harris Methodist Hospital, a 42-year-old man suffering from COVID-19 received plasma from a patient who previously had the virus in a new effort to fight it.

Pulmonologist Dr. John Burk is on the frontline against COVID-19 in Tarrant County and oversaw the infusion.

“We hope that we’re able to handle the load that’s about to occur,” Burk said.

The man who received the plasma was on a ventilator in critical condition.

“Patients in need who might be on a ventilator or about to be on a ventilator might be the best candidates to get a little boost in immunity,” Burk said.

The plasma comes from patients who have already recovered and have antibodies to help fight the virus, but it’ll be a few days before Burk knows if it’s working.

“It could make a world of difference,” he said. “It could be substantially different. The truth is we don’t yet know.”

Burk says this was the first infusion in North Texas he is aware of to fight the novel coronavirus.

The procedure has been used for SARS and Ebola, and the risk is low, but Burk adds that it is still unproven and experimental, and people should not yet be asking to receive it.

Studies across the country are reviewing how effective the process could be. Burk got approval for the new usage in this case in four days, and there were plans to use it to treat a patient at Baylor All Saints, but that person passed away.

“For a patient waiting, it’s a long long time,” Burk said. “For this kind of sort of process to offer an experimental compassionate need, that’s fast.”

Since only those recovered can donate and there has to be a blood match, there’s a small pool to pick from. Burk is hoping more from that small group will help save possibly two lives each as medical staff prepare for the expected peak of COVID-19 cases in mid-April.

“Everybody is stepping up and working incredibly hard, carrying a pretty heavy burden given the circumstances that they’re working under,” Burk said.

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