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UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital first in the state to treat COVID-19 patients with convalescent serum, doctor cautions “this is not a long term solution”

April 7, 2020

Aurora, Colo. (April 7, 2020) – Last week, UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital treated its first COVID-19 patient with a blood product called convalescent serum. When someone gets infected with COVID-19, their body has an immune response that creates antibodies. Those antibodies help them fight off the infection.

Convalescent serum comes from someone who has recovered from a disease. Through a donation of plasma, similar to a blood donation, serum containing those antibodies can be collected. By providing the serum through a transfusion to someone who is currently sick with the same virus, the sick individual receives a dose of virus-fighting antibodies.

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While using convalescent serum as a possible treatment for COVID-19 is exciting, doctors note that it is not currently FDA-approved. “We know from previous outbreaks of infection, that convalescent serum might have helped people,” said UCHealth infectious disease expert Dr. David Beckham, who also researches this and other emerging virus infections at the University of Colorado School of Medicine on the Anschutz Medical Campus.

“We don’t know if this is true for COVID-19 patients yet, but we are hoping that we can provide this and obtain it relatively quickly, and then distribute it quickly to patients who are sick,” said Beckham. “We are going to study the data to understand if these patients are actually getting better or improving with the treatment. 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.”

For people who have recovered from COVID-19 and are interested in donating their plasma, the current requirement is that those patients have to have documented proof of prior COVID-19 disease. The other requirement is you to have a negative test result, and be symptom-free for at least 14 days. Check with blood banks at the Red Cross, UCHealth Garth Englund Blood center in Fort Collins, Children’s Hospital Colorado or Vitalant to see if you can make an appointment to donate – you will have to meet the requirements with your physician prior to going to these centers.

Through its partnership with the University of Colorado School of Medicine, UCHealth locations are currently participating in three clinical trials of possible COVID-19 treatments, with more being planned.

About UCHealth

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. UCHealth includes more than 25,000 employees, 12 acute-care hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth is dedicated to providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. Offering more than 150 clinic locations, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.