Photo courtesy LHAAMC.

Luminis Health Anne Arundel Medical Center was one of 22 academic medical centers nationwide that participated in the New England Journal of Medicine multicenter COVID-19 therapy study.

Led by researchers at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health the study showed that plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 and whose blood contains antibodies against SARS-CoV-2, the causative virus, is an effective and safe option as an early outpatient treatment for the disease.

The research showed that antibody-rich COVID-19 convalescent plasma — collected from recovered patients and administered to COVID-19 outpatients within nine days after testing positive — reduced the need for hospitalization by more than half.   The U.S. Food and Drug Administration currently authorizes this plasma as a treatment option for inpatients and outpatients with immunocompromised status.

In the outpatient early-treatment study conducted between June 2020 and October 2021, the researchers provided 1,181 randomized patients with one dose each of either high antibody containing convalescent plasma (containing a concentrated mixture of antibodies specific to SARS-CoV-2) or placebo control plasma (with no SARS-CoV-2 antibodies). The patients were 18 and older, and had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 within eight days prior to transfusion.

The study found that 17 patients out of 592 (2.9 percent) who received the convalescent plasma required hospitalization within 28 days of their transfusion, compared with 37 out of 589 (6.3 percent) who received placebo control plasma. This translated to a relative risk reduction for hospitalization of 54 percent Patients treated within 5 days of the positive test appeared to have an even better outcome: reduction of 80 percent in the risk of hospitalization, similar to other authorized therapies.

The next step, the researchers said, is to make convalescent more accessible to those who might need it. As part of that effort, they have provided clinicians with a guide for implementing a plasma transfusion center for outpatients with COVID-19, including logistical, staffing and blood banking requirements.