Doctor treating COVID-19 patients encourages convalescent plasma donors

July 30, 2020

Dr. Jairo Melo, Medical Director for Pulmonary and Critical Care with Methodist Hospital, treats dozens of patients with COVID-19 every day.

Based on early research, he and his team have been prescribing the antiviral drug Remdisivir and a steroid called dexamethasone to patients, but supplies of the drugs can be tight. So is the supply of another treatment Dr. Melo says he would like to use with every COVID-19 admitted to the hospital – convalescent plasma.

And that’s a resource that doesn’t require a pharmaceutical facility. All it takes is someone who has been sick with COVID-19 to give plasma at the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center.

‘Go and donate plasma’

“If you have had COVID-19 and recovered, or if you know of anyone who has recovered, they should go and donate plasma,” Dr. Melo says. “Your blood has antibodies that may help save the life of someone else, maybe somebody you love.”

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center is the only organization in San Antonio collecting convalescent plasma that can be transfused directly to patients currently fighting COVID-19. Anyone who has recovered can visit SouthTexasBlood.org/COVID19 or send an email to COVID19@SouthTexasBlood.org to learn more and set an appointment for screening.

‘Saves lives and provides hope’

San Antonian Paul Basaldua has been a regular plasma donor since recovering from COVID-19 this spring.

“It’s vital that more people who’ve recovered make plasma donations, and our community and business leaders need to amplify that message,” he said in a commentary published at the Rivard Report. “Simply put, plasma saves lives and provides hope.”

Plasma donors must meet the same requirements as all blood donors, including making an appointment, and the process takes just slightly longer than a regular whole blood donation, says Dr. Samantha Gomez Ngamsuntikul, Associate Medical Director, South Texas Blood & Tissue Center. And there’s a bonus – qualified plasma donors can give twice a week, and each donation helps three or more patients.

More donors needed

Dr. Melo says the need for donors is critical.

“We have more patients now than we can treat with plasma,” he says.

He would like to treat any COVID-19 patient he sees with convalescent plasma, not just the severely ill ones, but right now there isn’t enough of it available.

“If they’re sick enough to be in the hospital, we want to give it to them,” Dr. Melo says.

Convalescent plasma has been used for more than 100 years, and there is abundant literature to support it as a therapy – especially when there are no other treatments available, he said.

“We think it works – we have seen it in our patients. They recover faster and they overall do better,” Dr. Melo says.


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