St. Joseph begins convalescent plasma therapy with COVID-19 patients

Lisa Omelko, a lab technician in the Blood Bank at St. Joseph Medical Center, prepares plasma to be thawed before it is used for a patient transfusion in one of the medical center’s COVID-19 units. Credit: Penn State Health / Penn StateCreative Commons

HERSHEY, Pa. — Penn State Health St. Joseph Medical Center has begun using an experimental treatment program called convalescent plasma therapy with a growing number of its COVID-19 positive patients.

“In the first two weeks of our participation in the program, we transfused nine patients with convalescent plasma,” said Cheryl Gipe, blood bank manager at St. Joseph. “The turnaround time from when we order the plasma until we receive it has been steadily improving. We are hopeful that indicates the supply of convalescent plasma is becoming more readily available as donors are identified.”

Convalescent plasma therapy involves giving patients an infusion of plasma — the liquid portion of blood — from people who have recovered from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The plasma contains antibodies that may help patients being treated for COVID-19 recover.

St. Joseph screens potential participants for eligibility prior to donation. They must be at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, be in good health and have a verified prior diagnosis of COVID-19.

The treatment is available through an expanded access program led by Mayo Clinic and coordinated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Patients at both St. Joseph Medical Center and Hershey Medical Center are screened for eligibility by their physician to receive this experimental treatment.

“As part of a university health system, St. Joseph Medical Center’s connection to Hershey Medical Center allows us to be able to bring treatments like this to the Berks market faster than if we were an independent hospital,” said Dr. Jeffrey Held, vice president for medical affairs at St. Joseph.

Last Updated May 06, 2020