HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) is starting two new clinical trials to investigate if convalescent plasma can prevent infection of COVID-19 or lessen the severity of the disease in people who may have been exposed.
Previously, research has shown that plasma from someone who has recovered from COVID-19 can help patients who are currently battling COVID-19.
Now, a team of researchers want to see if the same convalescent plasma can help people who may have been exposed, people with high-risk health factors, and health care workers who have a high-risk of exposure.
This team will be the first in Texas to start these clinical trials.
Dr. Bela Patel with UT Health and Memorial Hermann Health Systems said currently the trials will consist of a small group, about 20 to 25 participants in each.
"As we get more plasma donations and as we get more patients who are participating in these trials, we can continue to increase those counts," Patel said.
She said it's why they are calling on COVID-19 survivors to give back to the community by donating plasma.
"If this trial works and we can actually give plasma to patients who are mildly sick or who have just turned positive, and we can prevent patients from going into the hospitals, especially patients that are over 65 years old who are diabetic, hypertensive or have other risk factors like cancer and so forth, then we can make a huge impact, not only in those patients lives, but also on the stress patients place on health care systems when there is large surges happening," Patel said.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, 9,689 COVID-19 patients are currently in Texas hospitals, as of July 9. Statewide there have been 230,346 COVID-19 cases reported and an estimated 118,326 Texans have recovered.
Patel said she is worried if the flu epidemic and COVID-19 pandemic are happening at the same time, that Texas hospitals will be overwhelmed with patients.
She said these trials will also help determine whether plasma therapy can reduce hospitalization and death prior to hospitalization among adults who have tested positive for COVID-19 and have developed symptoms.
"It's really for individuals to give back to their communities so we can help people who are more vulnerable and may not survive the disease," Patel said.
UTHealth and Memorial Hermann have partnered with the Gulf Coast Regional Blood Center to screen and collect plasma.
To qualify to donate, you must:
- Be at least 18 years of age
- Be in overall good health, without any cold or flu symptoms
- Have had a positive COVID-19 diagnosis documented by a laboratory test
- Be fully recovered from COVID-19, with no symptoms for at least 14 days before the donation