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Brigham, Dana-Farber to study whether plasma from recovered coronavirus patients can be used to treat the sick

Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are conducting a study of blood plasma drawn from those who tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered.Craig F. Walker/Globe Staff

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute are planning to study whether blood plasma from people who have recovered from the coronavirus can be used to treat those who have the disease.

“We’re trying to go as fast as we can," said Dr. Richard Kaufman, medical director of Brigham and Women’s Hospital, in a telephone interview Wednesday. “The time to do the study is now, because this is the only antibody therapy that’s available currently.”

The researchers are looking for people, including children, who have recovered from COVID-19 and asking them to donate blood for study of their plasma, the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after the removal of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Anyone over a year old can be considered as a donor.


Only plasma from male donors with a high level of neutralizing antibodies will be used. Female donors will not be accepted in order to avoid a rare but significant condition called transfusion-related acute lung injury, or TRALI, the statement said.

One group of hospitalized patients with COVID-19 will receive the convalescent plasma from donors, while the other will receive plasma not believed to have the antibodies present in convalescent. A total of 220 hospitalized patients will be studied, Kaufman said.

Antibodies from recovered patients are thought to “not only bind to the coronavirus, but they can, by themselves, block the coronavirus from infecting healthy cells. We think those are likely the most important antibodies for this approach,” Kaufman said.

Clinical outcomes from the two groups, including information such as as time spent on a ventilator, will help the researchers determine if the plasma with antibodies can help a patient recover.

The project is dubbed the ESCAPE study (short for Evaluation of the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) Antibody-containing Plasma thErapy), the hospitals said in a statement.


The researchers are asking people who have recovered from a confirmed case of COVID-19 to contact them about donating. Volunteers must be 14 days free of symptoms, demonstrated with a negative swab, or 28 days symptom-free. People can contact bwhcovidplasma@bwh.harvard.edu; or call: 617-525-3533 to make an appointment for prescreening, the statement said.

“Convalescent plasma [from donors] has been used for other epidemics like Ebola, for SARS1, and the reason is it’s the only antibody therapy you can roll out in a hurry,” Kaufman said.

The donations will be collected at the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

For more than a century, doctors have known that transfusions of antibody-rich plasma from patients who recovered from a disease can sometimes treat others with the illness.

Since the COVID-19 pandemic erupted, there has been renewed interest in arming the immune systems of sick people with plasma from those who recovered, the Globe has reported. The treatment has shown success in some smaller studies.

Jonathan Saltzman of the Globe staff contributed to this report.

Martin finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.