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University of Colorado Hospital tries "promising" treatment for COVID-19, but doctors still cautious

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Posted at 11:13 AM, Apr 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-07 13:13:25-04

AURORA, Colo. — The Denver metro area's largest hospital last week began treating a COVID-19 patient with a blood product collected from patients who have recovered from the virus, but a doctor at the hospital cautioned that it's "not a long-term solution."

Doctors at the UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital were excited about the possibility of convalescent serum — which is collected from the plasma of recovered patients — being used as a treatment for those suffering from coronavirus. The serum gives a sick patient a dose of virus-fighting antibodies, according to the hospital, though the treatment is not yet approved by the Federal Drug Administration.

The FDA last week called convalescent serum a "promising" possibility but said it had not yet shown to be effect for treating COVID-19.

Dr. David Beckham, a UCHealth infectious disease expert, said the hospital knew that convalescent serum may have helped people during previous infection outbreaks. While doctors don't know if the serum can help COVID-19 patients, "we are hoping that we can provide this and obtain it relatively quickly, and then distribute it quickly to patients who are sick," Beckham said.

“We are going to study the data to understand if these patients are actually getting better or improving with the treatment," Beckham said. "Right now we don’t know if convalescent serum is going to make COVID-19 patients any better. We have to be very careful about the patients we select. In a perfect world, if a patient had COVID-19 and came into the hospital, we would have a series of drugs or treatments or therapeutics that have been validated in a well-controlled clinical trial to show that those therapeutics or those approaches work in that specific patient population.”

The hospital is asking for recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma but several requirements are in place. Patients need documented proof they have COVID-19 and a negative test result, and they need to be symptom-free for at least two weeks. Those interested in donating should contact blood banks at the Red Cross, UCHealth Garth Englund Blood center in Fort Collins, Children's Hospital Colorado or Vitalant to make an appointment.