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Local COVID-19 patient gets experimental treatment based on century-old idea

Doctors at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital are testing a treatment for COVID-19 that goes back at least as far as the 1918 Flu Pandemic

ST. LOUIS — An experimental treatment from Washington University could give some of the sickest COVID-19 patients new hope.

Doctors at Washington University and Barnes-Jewish Hospital are testing a treatment for COVID-19 that goes back at least as far as the 1918 Flu Pandemic. They're transfusing blood plasma from recovered patients to those still fighting the virus.

Less than three weeks ago, the FDA gave Washington University and its partners at Johns Hopkins and the Mayo Clinic emergency permission to try it.

Saturday, doctors performed the procedure on the first St. Louis patient. 

"We're giving this to patients who are ill in the hospital, some with with breathing tubes or with difficulty breathing," Barnes-Jewish physician and Washington University scientist Dr. Jeffery Henderson, MD, PhD said.

"Our hope is that this speeds their recovery and gets them off of a breathing tube or improves their ability to breathe and allows their own immune system to catch up," Henderson said.

He said the next few weeks should help doctors know if the treatment will work for COVID-19 patients. They are hopeful because of the success the technique has had against other recent outbreaks like SARS and MERS.

"We're both excited and cautious at the same time," Henderson said.

Henderson said more than 20 recovered patients had already come forward to donate plasma. To be eligible, patients must have had a positive COVID-19 test and be recovered and symptom free for 14 days. 

Potential donors can contact doctors at idcru@wustl.edu

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