WASHINGTON – Two congressman announced Thursday that they will be donating their blood plasma, since they have recovered from COVID-19, to those who are sick with the virus.
The technique of using plasma from people who have recovered from a disease to treat others with the same disease goes back more than a century and has been successful in stemming outbreaks of poliomyelitis, measles, mumps and influenza.
Plasma from those who have recovered from the coronavirus is currently being evaluated as a potential treatment for patients battling the virus and as a possible step toward creating a vaccine.
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Reps. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C., and Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., are among six lawmakers on Capitol Hill who have tested positive for coronavirus so far.
"I was incredibly fortunate to only have extremely mild #COVID19 symptoms and now I'm grateful for the chance to help out someone who is critically ill," Cunningham wrote on Twitter. "If you've recovered from coronavirus, I encourage you to do the same!"
Diaz-Balart wrote that he donated his plasma while his wife, Tia, donated blood "to help those with critical health conditions."
"I strongly encourage people who have recovered from COVID-19 to become a plasma donor – someone’s life could depend on it," he said.
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Early results of using blood plasma around the country have shown some positive results in the fight against the coronavirus.
As discussed with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, some blood plasma projects are not coming from an official clinical trial but from patients who have been treated under the U.S. government's expanded access program. The program is meant to help patients now, before rigorous, time-consuming clinical trials have been completed.
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No definitive studies looking at outcomes in patients who either did or did not get the plasma have been released. However, a report on a series of cases from China that was published on March 27 also seemed to show the possibility of positive outcomes.
Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Red Cross have encouraged those who have fully recovered from COVID-19 to consider donating their blood plasma.
Donors must meet certain requirements, including having a prior, verified diagnosis of COVID-19. Dr. Liise-anne Pirofski, professor of biomedical research at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said the donor must have documentation, such as a positive PCR test or an official isolation order, and can donate up to 28 days after the resolution of their symptoms.
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COVID-19 cases have topped 1 million and the death toll has passed 60,000 in the United States.
Contributing: Elizabeth Weise, Adrianna Rodrigue, Grace Hauck, USA TODAY; Mark Johnson, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel