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Dr. Timothy Endy of Upstate’s Center for Global Health & Translational Science and Division of Infectious Disease. Provided photo

SYRACUSE — Upstate Medical University is seeking recovered COVID-19 test positive patients to donate plasma in an emergency clinical trial to help treat other severely ill patients battling the disease.

The theory is that people who have recovered from COVID-19 have developed the antibodies against the disease. Those antibodies could then be given to a currently infected person to lessen symptoms and speed recovery, Timothy Endy, MD, MPH, professor and chair of microbiology and immunology at Upstate. and Dr. Stephen Thomas MD, Chief of Infectious Disease and Leader of COVID-19 preparations for Upstate University Hospital, said in a statement.

The project is part of the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, which the Food and Drug Administration has approved as an Emergency Investigational New Drug (EIND).

If someone is 18 years or older, has tested positive for COVID-19 and is now 14 days out from their last symptom, they are asked to call Upstate Clinical Trials at 315-464-9869 to arrange a screening appointment.

Upstate is working with the American Red Cross to create the donation process. The process will involve a screening with Upstate including another COVID-19 test. After a negative test result, Upstate will schedule the plasma donation with the Red Cross. Once the plasma has been drawn, the Red Cross will screen it for other infectious diseases. That process can take several days but the first available plasma in this clinical trial could be available as soon as next week.

The pool of potential local plasma donors for the project should grow as those diagnosed continue to recover, Dr. Endy said. Current potential donors were likely diagnosed in early March, he said.

Plasma donation is safe for patients because they get to keep all of their “good cells,” Dr. Endy said and anecdotally, doctors are seeing only positive results from patients who are treated with convalescent plasma.

Upstate’s participation in the treatment trial was sparked during a teleconference conversation via Project ECHO Saturday morning among doctors from Upstate and in Wuhan, China. Doctors in Wuhan said they had seen improvements in the severity of COVID-19 symptoms in patients that had received convalescent plasma, Dr. Thomas said.

“It’s currently all anecdotal. There haven’t been any controlled studies yet but we hope that will change as we get more information,” he said.

Doctors at Upstate will collect data and blood samples with informed consent from patients who receive the plasma. That information can be used for later study but for now, the project is considered an emergency use therapeutic and only a treatment, not a study.

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