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UT Health East Texas testing plasma treatment for COVID-19

Doctors in East Texas are clinically testing treatments using blood from patients who have already recovered from COVID-19.

TYLER, Texas — No vaccine currently exists for COVID-19. 

While doctors across the country are desperately working for a vaccine, others are working for potential treatments for the disease.

At the UT Health East Texas, clinical trials are underway using blood plasma from patients who have already recovered from COVID-19, which contains valuable antibodies, that can fight the virus. This plasma is also known as convalescent plasma.

Dr. Julie Philley, who specializes in pulmonary and critical care medicine at UT Health East Texas, says while there’s not enough information yet to definitively say this treatment works, there have been good results with small groups of people.

“If you boost the immune system of someone that's very ill with the virus with these antibodies, the proteins that help fight infection of someone that had recovered from it, theoretically, you can help the patient's immune system fight the virus faster and better,” Dr. Philley said.

Dr. Philley says while it is too early to tell how effective the treatment will be, they are hopeful.

“We've given our first patient, convalescent plasma and we have three more patients that are waiting to receive the plasma," Dr. Plhilley explained. "We're hoping that the patients that we use this in will improve. Just a little bit too early to tell at this point."

The only way doctors can get this plasma is through donations. Carter BloodCare is helping with that need.

Clinton McCoy, director of operations for Carter Blood Care in East Texas, says the donation process for those recovered from COVID-19 is simple.

“It's a completely safe process. It's just like donating regular blood,” McCoy explained. “We actually have our first donation scheduled in East Texas for next week. So we have our first fully recovered and qualified donor coming in next week.”

Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 and has been without symptoms for at least 14 days can apply to donate plasma on the Carter Blood Care website.