COVID-19 plasma research underway at Monument Health

Published: May. 20, 2020 at 11:51 AM MDT
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Monument Health recently began using donated blood plasma to treat patients severely affected by COVID-19. The transfusions are part of a Mayo Clinic research project to determine the effectiveness of plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients as a treatment.

Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that carries cells and proteins throughout the body. In patients who have had COVID-19, the plasma also contains antibodies that may fight the virus. Until a COVID-19 vaccine is developed, this convalescent plasma could improve recovery for hospital patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

To protect patient privacy, Monument Health will not release details about the number of patients receiving the plasma or how the patients are responding.

“The goal of the plasma treatment is to improve clinical outcomes of patients who are severely affected by COVID-19. Most recipients will be on ventilators when they receive the plasma, and doctors hope the convalescent plasma will improve clinical symptoms and help patients rapidly improve,” said Emily Leech, Director of Laboratory at Monument Health. Data from the treatments are sent to Mayo Clinic, which is in charge of the research project.

“We know that plasma treatments have been successful for patients who have other viral diseases such as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome),” Leech said. “We found the data is very promising in helping critically ill patients.”

Monument Health continues to seek donors in western South Dakota whose convalescent plasma could save lives locally. The health care system is working with Vitalant, operator of the Black Hills blood donation center, to collect plasma donations.

Donors must have tested positive for the COVID-19 virus, either through a nasal test for active virus or antibody blood test, and have been symptom-free for 28 days.

“When donating plasma, blood is taken from a vein in the arm and sent to a centrifuge that separates the plasma from red cells and platelets. The red cells and platelets flow back into the body. The plasma can be frozen and stored up to a year,” said Danielle High Bear, Laboratory Supervisor at Rapid City Hospital.

For more information on donating plasma,