Cook County Health has begun using blood plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to treat individuals who are currently seriously ill with the disease.

While no drug treatment for COVID-19 has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, the U.S. Government is supporting a national Expanded Access Program to provide convalescent plasma to patients in need.

Cook County Health began using the therapy in early May. John H. Stroger, Jr. Hospital joins more than 2,000 sites nationwide in this program that are using convalescent plasma on COVID-19 patients.

Convalescent plasma is plasma collected from recovered COVID-19 patients that contains antibodies that helped them fight off the infection. Transfusing this plasma that contains these anti-COVID-19 antibodies into severely sick patients battling COVID-19 could give these patient’s immune system an additional boost to help fight off the infection.

“Historically, convalescent plasma therapy has been used effectively in previous pandemics, including the Spanish Flu, Ebola and H1N1,” said Dr. Paul Rubinstein, Cook County Health hematologist and the primary site investigator. “Nationwide, the results have been encouraging in fighting COVID-19.”

The FDA’s Expanded Access Program is a pathway for patients with immediately life-threatening COVID-19 infection to gain emergency access to this investigational medical product for treatment outside of clinical trials. This emergency access was approved due to convalescent plasmas previous successes in prior pandemics and due to the lack of current therapeutic options available to fight the COVID-19 virus.

Right now, there is an urgent need for plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients. Donating plasma, the liquid portion of the blood, is similar to donating blood. A single plasma donation from one patient can be used for multiple recipients. If you are interested to see if you qualify to donate plasma, visit the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project website.