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Bon Secours joins plasma program to treat virus

Bon Secours has joined the Food and Drug Administration’s Expanded Access Program for convalescent plasma in an effort to provide a treatment for COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma is taken from individuals who have recovered from the virus, and then administered to COVID-19 patients at high risk of progressing to a severe or life-threatening stage of the disease.

In the past, convalescent plasma has been collected and used safely in the treatments of polio, measles, hepatitis B, influenza, Ebola and other pathogens.

The Mayo Clinic, the lead organization for the program, said the treatment is based on the function of antibodies, which are proteins created by the immune system to fight off things like bacteria or foreign substances coming into the body.

“In our ongoing effort to care for our communities, Bon Secours is facilitating access to investigational convalescent plasma through participation in the National Expanded Access Treatment Protocol,” said Dr. Anhtai H. Nguyen, chief clinical officer for Bon Secours Hampton Roads in a statement. “We have established a network of participating blood suppliers that will work at the local level to supply hospitals with convalescent plasma. The key to the success of this program is the donor population.”

VCU Medical Center in Richmond is also part of the program, and said in a news release it is planning to administer convalescent plasma to a COVID-19 patient this week.

To qualify, a donor has to have had COVID-19 and be symptom free for at least 28 days. They can donate blood at their local American Red Cross blood donation center, or at other participating blood donation centers listed on the Bon Secours website.

Donated blood is tested for safety and goes through a process to separate blood cells so that what remains is plasma with antibodies. Potentially, a plasma donation can help up to four people with COVID-19.

Bon Secours said investigative convalescent plasma used within the guidelines of the program is different from antibody testing. Both programs use antibodies found in a person’s blood. However, investigative convalescent plasma is a treatment for COVID-19 patients at high risk for worsening of the disease. Antibody testing is a new lab blood test developed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help determine how much of the U.S. population has been exposed to the coronavirus.

For more information on the program, go to www.bonsecours.com or call 888-700-9011.