After overcoming coronavirus (COVID-19), surgeon donates plasma

While George Chang, M.D., battled the cough, high fever and severe body aches caused by the coronavirus (COVID-19), his immune system was producing antibodies — “warrior” proteins that fight infections. “I had a rough go of it, but in the end, my body produced the antibodies to beat the coronavirus,” says Chang, a colorectal cancer surgeon at MD Anderson. Most antibodies are found in plasma — the yellow, liquid part of the blood. Chang is donating his plasma to MD Anderson Blood Bank. His plasma donation may be used by MD Anderson to treat severely ill COVID-19 patients as part of a national initiative led by the Mayo Clinic. This effort will help doctors determine if plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients can help those currently facing the disease. People who’ve already had COVID-19 may have antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus — the virus that causes COVD-19 disease — in their plasma. Researchers think these antibodies could help stimulate a stronger immune response in patients with COVID-19. If they do, convalescent plasma may serve as a bridge until COVID-19 treatments or a vaccine become available. “There’s no effective treatment for COVID-19, so patients who are the sickest are willing to try this,” Chang explains. “If this works, it can save lives.” Convalescent plasma: an old therapy for a new coronavirus The idea of using one person’s antibodies to help another person fight a virus is not new. “Physicians have used plasma to treat other viral infections including the Ebola virus,” says Elizabeth Shpall, M.D., who is leading MD Anderson’s participation in the national convalescent plasma effort with Kimberly Klein, M.D.,...