UW Hospital joins COVID-19 plasma trial

Coronavirus

A nurse at a drive up COVID-19 coronavirus testing station set up by the University of Washington Medical Center exits a tent while holding a bag containing a swab used to take a sample from the nose of a person in their car, Friday, March 13, 2020, in Seattle. UW Medicine is conducting drive-thru testing in a hospital parking garage and has screened hundreds of staff members, faculty and trainees for the COVID-19 coronavirus. U.S. hospitals are setting up triage tents, calling doctors out of retirement, guarding their supplies of face masks and making plans to cancel elective surgery as they brace for an expected onslaught of coronavirus patients. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — University Hospital in Madison will join a national effort to transfuse antibodies from the plasma of people who recovered from the coronavirus to treat patients still struggling with it.

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The technique is a century-old treatment used to fight off flu and measles outbreaks in the days before vaccines, and tried more recently against SARS and Ebola.

With no approved treatment for COVID-19 and more than 11,000 deaths in the U.S., the unproven approach offers some hope against COVID-19.

As of Tuesday night, Wisconsin reported more than 2,500 coronavirus infections and 92 related deaths — 49 of them in Milwaukee County.

“We know that antibody has neutralized the virus in one person,” said Dr. William Hartman, a UW Health anesthesiologist heading up the effort at UW Hospital, which is part of a national study. “We assume that the antibody will neutralize the virus in another person. It’s an extra boost to help fight off the infection.”

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UW Hospital has joined the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, started about a month ago by Johns Hopkins University, Mayo Clinic and other institutions.

The Food and Drug Administration recently approved a clinical trial at Johns Hopkins, through which UW Hospital’s treatment program will operate, Hartman tells the State Journal.

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