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New York hospital among first approved to use COVID-19 experimental treatment

Albany Medical Center approved to use convalescent blood plasma to experimentally treat critically ill patients.

Published: April 11, 2020 9:38am

Updated: April 11, 2020 11:45am

The Albany Medical Center in New York has become one of the first hospitals in America to gain Federal Drug Administration approval to conduct a new method of treating COVID-19, using antibodies from surviving patients.

If a recovered patient has been diagnosed with the coronavirus then the hope is that that patient may be able to donate their blood plasma to help create immunity for others who are more critically ill, officials said.

"As the region’s only academic medical center, Albany Med participates in many cutting-edge clinical research trials. We are honored to have the ability to administer this experimental therapy as we fight this global pandemic and hope that it can provide the life-saving treatment these patients inflicted with COVID-19 so desperately need,” Dennis P. McKenna, the hospital's president and CEO, said.

The so-called convalescent blood plasma therapy is not a novel idea. It was not only used during the 1918 flu pandemic but as far back as when George Washington's troops were fighting small pox during the Revolutionary War. It also was used as recently as 2014's ebola outbreak.

Convalescent plasma therapy is simple. Patients become inflicted with COVID-19 and then recover completely and that immunity enables them to donate their plasma to another critically infected patient.

Albany Medical Center is serving as a center for other COVID-19 patients who will donate their plasmas. A donor must be fully recovered and have no symptoms for at least 14 days.

Convalescent plasma has been used effectively during earlier recent virus outbreaks: the 2002 severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) under George W. Bush's administration and during the H1N1 and Middle East respiratory syndrome under the Obama administration.

“We’re hoping it’ll have a similar result on some of these patients,” said Dr. Daniel Pauze, the Albany Medical Center’s Chief Medical Officer.  

Albany Medical Center has said that all potential candidates can be expected to be re-tested to assure the virus is no longer in their systems and if they have recovered they will be eligible for a donation. The number to call is 518-262-9340.

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