Kalamazoo Hospital Tries Plasma To Fight COVID-19

Apr 26, 2020

Ascension Borgess Hospital in Kalamazoo
Credit Ascension Health Alliance

A Kalamazoo hospital is part of a national trial of a treatment for COVID-19.


Dr. Thomas Rohs is the chief medical officer at Ascension Borgess Hospital. He says the process is called "convalescent plasma."

"Meaning that, if you could take the plasma through a bloodbanking process, of a person who's already had a disease and use the antibodies in that plasma to fight off the disease in another person through a transfusion, you could hopefully get some people to allow their own immune systems to catch up and fight off the virus more effectively."

Rohs says the treatment is being evaulated with patients infected by the coronavirus during a nationwide trial coodinated by the Mayo Clinic.

"This has been done many times before with other coronaviruses with, frankly, somewhat mixed results. In some cases, it's worked out quite well. And in other cases, it has not shown a benefit."

So far, Rohs says use of convalescent plasma at Borgess has also been inconclusive.

"It's only been available for three of our patients so far, and we've had mixed clinical results with those three patients. And we'll only be able to tell with a larger trial."

But Rohs says he hopes people who have recovered from corona virus infections will think about donating plasma.

"If you have tested positive for coronavirus, whether you were hospitalized or not, and you are 28 days past your infection and not having symptoms, our local bloodbank called Versiti would be very interested in collecting your donation and being able to bank that blood, test it, and have us give it back to people who are critically ill now."

Hospitals in other parts of Michigan get their blood from the American Red Cross or other sources.

There are some restrictions on who can donate plasma. Pregnant and nursing women are not eligible. Having a blood blood transfusion within the last 12 months, or a history of hepatitis B or C, and injecting illegal drugs will also prevent someone from being a donor. So will being in a high-risk group for HIV-AIDS. That's been controversial as activists say LGBTQ people have been turned away by donation centers.

Rohs says, statistically, there should be about 300 people in Kalamazoo County who have recovered from COVID-19 who could serve as plasma donors.