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Syracuse hospital to collect plasma from recovered COVID patients for treatment

Ryan Delaney
WRVO News File Photo

Hospitals are getting better at treating the sickest COVID-19 patients, according to one central New York coronavirus expert. Dr. Stephen Thomas, Chief of Infectious Diseases at Upstate University Hospital in Syracuse, said treatment for patients has gone through some changes over the last several months.

"The idea of 'when do you intubate people, do they get steroids, do they need antibiotics immediately or do they not, do they need to get anticoagulated'," Thomas said. "These sorts of things we’ve learned as we’ve gone along."

There are some medications now being administered to patients including steroids and antiviral drugs. Another promising treatment is convalescent plasma therapy. Plasma is collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and have antibodies that can help others fight the virus. 

"Anecdotally, I can tell you the people that we’ve used it on, there have been some incredible and miraculous turnarounds that we’ve seen in some patients," Thomas said.

With that in mind, Upstate is investing in the therapy.

"We have developed our own capability to collect our own plasma from our own patients," said Thomas. "We bought a number of machines, we’ve hired new people, we’ve trained them up, and they’re getting a new plasma donation facility put in place in the hospital."

It’s unclear when the plasma collection capability will begin at Upstate. Currently, the American Red Cross collects convalescent plasma. It has reported a shortage because of an increase in patients nationwide that need treatment.

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.