SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - One of the most promising experimental treatments for COVID-19 is ramping up in Santa Barbara.
"We're using really the wisdom of the immune system from people who've already recovered from this infection to try and help people who are battling it today," said Dr. Lynn Fitzgibbons, Chair of Division of Infectious Disease at Cottage Health. "We don't have a treatment that we know works right now or at least, works clearly and well for this awful disease."
The collaboration between Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital and the Cottage Health Research Institute (CHRI) and Vitalant helped launch the convalescent plasma program less than one week ago. Fitzgibbons said they've already had some successful donations.
"As you'd expect in Santa Barbara, we've had incredible generosity from people who again are in the wake of their own illness.
We've had between 10 and 20 people come forward so far and four more again this week."
Like so many other hospitals around the country, the Santa Barbara program is under the guidance of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Mayo Clinic.
Vitalant harvests the potentially life-saving fluid from those who've had and recovered from COVID-19. Fitzgibbons explained that donors must be well for up to four weeks and undergo through a rigorous pre-screening process.
"We make sure we screen for all of the usual infectious diseases, HIV, hepatitis. Again, it goes through all of the usual rigors of blood-banking. And then, once that plasma is deemed safe and ok to use, then we match it well to a donor and we have it here at their hospital waiting and ready."
Dr. Fitzgibbons said based on evidence with influenza and SARS, convalescent plasma is most helpful early on, giving patients antibodies to help fight the diseases. She added that most patients' own immune system takes over and starts making its own antibody after a couple of weeks.
"I'm excited to say that today (April 28), we actually have over 10 units of convalescent plasma on the shelf ready to be used for patients who would quality today."
For more information about Cottage Health click the following link: https://www.cottagehealth.org/
To donate blood or plasma or for more information about Vitalant, click here: https://www.vitalant.org/Home.aspx