DAVENPORT, Iowa — The treatment and perhaps a vaccine that stops COVID-19 may be developed thanks to work by two teams of Quad City doctors and nurses.
This week, two coronavirus patients at Genesis Health started receiving antibodies from the plasma of a COVID-19 patient who is now healthy and able to donate blood to the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.
Both Genesis and the blood center are part of a regional trial being led by Mayo Clinic.
"We do not have a lot of data, we have very small data that it might be effective. And that's why this is a trial," explained Dr. Bharat Motwani, infectious disease specialist at Genesis Health System and the lead investigator in the Quad City study.
“Being at the forefront of this kind of trial and its potential for good is what keeps me excited about what I do,’’ Dr. Motwani said.
Earlier this month, the Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center started drawing blood from recovered COVID-19 patients screened by the blood center and the patient's doctor.
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Now, the antibodies from that plasma are being used to treat two Genesis patients still sick from the virus.
"This therapy is unproven," admits infectious disease specialist Dr. Louis Katz. Chief Medical Officer with Mississippi Valley Regional Blood Center.
"We are hopeful," he added.
The use of what's called convalescent plasma has been successful in other cases dating back decades.
"The method has been used in the past to treat a wide range of diseases such as polio, measles, SARS, Ebola, H1N1 flu and measles in previous outbreaks," said Dr. Motwani.
Dr. Katz says there has been "very preliminary data" from China that could be promising but he cautioned there "are no valid clinical outcome studies of convalescent plasma for COVID-19."
Since plasma is used routinely in transfusion there are few side effects, if any, to the clinical study.
Dr. Motwani says that makes his work rewarding.
"I'm really excited to be a part of the clinical trial and I'm really hoping something good comes out of it."