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I'm a Doctor and Here's the Truth About Convalescent Plasma

The ‘breakthrough’ treatment still needs clinical tests.

On Sunday, President Donald Trump and the FDA made a major announcement issuing an emergency use authorization for convalescent plasma as a method of treating COVID-19. Per the organization, convalescent plasma "may be effective in treating COVID-19 and that the known and potential benefits of the product outweigh the known and potential risks of the product." They even cited statistics that the use of convalescent plasma reduced deaths by 35%. However, there is some controversy as to just how promising the treatment really is—and according to one Yale hematologist, more research is needed to fully understand its effect. Read on, and to keep yourself and others safe during this pandemic, don't miss this essential list of the Sure Signs You've Already Had Coronavirus.

The Truth is, 'We Need Larger Clinical Studies'

Sabrina Browning, MD, a Yale Medicine hematologist, explains to Eat This, Not That! Health that convalescent plasma is a component of blood that is collected from individuals who have already recovered from an infection. "This component of blood is thought to contain antibodies created by the immune system to fight off a specific infection," she says. 

Once the blood is collected it is given via a blood transfusion to those with current or ongoing infection, in an attempt to transfer these antibodies so that the body can use them to fight off infection. 

The treatment has been used for various infections over the last century, and most recently  employed for the management of COVID-19. However, Dr. Browning isn't fully convinced that is a miracle treatment for the virus, as the research, quite simply, is not there. 

"While there has been some suggestion that this treatment is safe and effective for those suffering from COVID-19 which is encouraging, we really need larger clinical studies that are randomized so that some people receive convalescent plasma and others receive a placebo, in order to understand its full effect," she explains. 

'It Appears to be Safe'

She also points out that the importance of being able to measure the amount of antibodies in the convalescent plasma being given to patients to better understand how helpful it may be. For example, how patients who are given less antibodies respond versus those who are given more. Additionally, she points out that there seems to be a better response when the convalescent plasma is given earlier in an individual's illness. 

While more is to be revealed, she is supportive of its use—especially at this point in the pandemic when we need it the most. "With all that being said, convalescent plasma transfusion appears to be safe and this therapy filled an immediate need during an unimaginably challenging public health crisis," she continues. "However, it is important that we now continue to study its use in randomized clinical trials to confirm its benefit." As for yourself: to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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