Phoebe joins national COVID-19 research project

Phoebe joins national COVID-19 research project
A Phoebe lab technologist tests for COVID-19. (Source: Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital)

ALBANY, Ga. (WALB) - Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital is collaborating with the Mayo Clinic and the American Red Cross on a project to study whether the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients may help other patients survive the illness.

“Patients who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies in their blood that fight coronavirus. It’s possible blood plasma from those patients could be used to successfully treat COVID-19. We know this kind of treatment has proven effective with other viruses, and we think it’s critically important to study its efficacy with COVID-19,” Dr. Jose Tongol, Phoebe hematologist and oncologist, said.

The U.S. Government is supporting a national Expanded Access Program (EAP) to collect and provide convalescent plasma to COVID-19 patients across the country, according to a release from Phoebe.

The Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. is the lead institution for the program, but hospitals across the country can participate, according to Phoebe.

Tongol is the principle investigator at Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital.

Other physicians participating in the study include Dr. Kumud Rangaraj, Phoebe hematologist and oncologist, Dr. Ramana Rao, Phoebe critical care intensivist, Dr. Temitope Olarewaju, Phoebe family medicine physician and Dr. Teri Bohlmeyer, pathologist.

A lab tests for the coronavirus.
A lab tests for the coronavirus. (Source: WIS)

“Unfortunately, the Albany area was one of the early hotspots for COVID-19 in the country, and we have treated more COVID patients at Phoebe than any other individual hospital in Georgia. The virus is still prevalent in our area, and we want to be at the center of efforts to develop effective treatments for our patients and others around the country,” said Dr. Steven Kitchen, Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital chief medical officer.

Phoebe registered with the Mayo Clinic to participate in the EAP on April 9.

When COVID-19 patients are released from Phoebe, physicians may discuss with those patients the opportunity for them to donate plasma that could potentially help current or future COVID patients, the release from the hospital system states.

“We are working diligently to identify eligible patients our care teams deem appropriate for this treatment,” Tongol said. “By the middle of June, we had completed 12 infusions on COVID-19 patients and had received consent from nine others who could receive transfusions based on plasma availability. We are hopeful this convalescent plasma protocol will show positive results for our patients.”

“The protocol requires the patient or family member to consent to receiving plasma from someone who has recovered from COVID-19,” The Mayo Clinic’s website states about the project. “Their plasma has substances that could improve chances of recovery. Only hospitalized patients referred by their health care provider will participate in this protocol.”

Below are the guidelines for patients eligible to get convalescent plasma:

  • If they are 18 or older.
  • If they have a laboratory-confirmed diagnosis of infection with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus that causes COVID-19.
  • If they are admitted to an acute care facility for the treatment of COVID-19 complications.
  • If they have severe or life-threatening COVID-19 or judged by the treating provider to be at high risk of progression to severe or life-threatening disease.
  • If there is informed consent provided by the patient or healthcare proxy.

According to the website, nearly 24,000 patients nationwide had received infusions through the project as of June 18.

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