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Johns Hopkins research shows convalescent plasma treatment in outpatient setting reduces covid hospitalizations

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convalescent plasma(WBAY)
Published: Dec. 28, 2021 at 5:10 PM CST
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Wis. (WBAY) - As hospitals across Wisconsin reach capacity, researchers at Johns Hopkins University say the FDA should consider using convalescent plasma as an outpatient treatment to free up beds.

The use of plasma to treat infections is not a new therapy. The treatment received Emergency Use Authorization from the FDA early in the pandemic to treat in-patient covid-19 infections in a hospital.

A panel of six researchers from Johns Hopkins set out to find if a convalescent plasma treatment outside a hospital setting would still be effective. Their research pointed to yes.

Between June 2020 and October 2021, researchers randomly gave more than 1,100 covid-19 patients either convalescent plasma or a controlled plasma in an outpatient setting and found it reduced hospitalizations by 54 percent.

“We know we can reduce hospitalizations transfusing up to nine days,” said Dr. David Sullivan, professor at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and principal investigator. “There already is an existing standardized product that’s in use in the hospital and we think that can just be expanded to outpatient space.”

This polyclonal plasma could also help in the fight against new variants, unlike the monoclonal antibodies currently used right now in hospitals.

“They worked great for every variant but omicron,” said Dr. Ashok Rai, President and CEO of Prevea Health. “Unfortunately, the ones that we have in large supply here locally have now been put on the shelf because they don’t work with omicron and that is what we would consider the most dominant variant right now.”

Researchers say the polyclonal plasma used in this study can evolve with the virus, which means it can adapt to new variants like Omicron. They also said it can be deployed quicker than a variant-focused vaccine because the infrastructure of plasma donation is already in place across the country.

“We do know that their strike teams that have been available that have been using monoclonal antibodies, we think that they could be readily available to potentially use convalescent plasma if it is approved,” said Dr. Kelly Gebo, professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Because of this study, the use of convalescent plasma as an outpatient therapy is already under review by the FDA. Researchers are hoping the FDA expands the current EUA to include outpatient therapy.

“We use blood transfusions every single day in the hospital. It’s really one of the most common and safest procedures performed in medicine. And now we have data showing that blood transfusion convalescent plasma reduces hospitalizations and we think everyone should be aware,” said Dr. Aaron Tobian, director of the transfusion medicine division at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

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