Study working to find if some people make better plasma donors for coronavirus treatment

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FILE – In this Feb. 18, 2020, file photo, Dr. Zhou Min, a recovered COVID-19 patient who has passed his 14-day quarantine, donates plasma in the city’s blood center in Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province. Plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients contains antibodies that may help reduce the viral load in patients that are fighting the disease. (Chinatopix via AP, File)

(CBS) A hundred years after doctors used it to treat patients in the 1918 flu pandemic, convalescent plasma therapy is once again being used to treat today’s COVID-19 victims. Bill Whitaker reports on a team of doctors and scientists who are finding COVID-19 survivors whose plasma have virus-killing antibodies 10 to 50 times greater than other donors. The report will be broadcast on 60 Minutes, Sunday, May 31 at 7 p.m. ET/PT on CBS.
 
Convalescent plasma therapy works by infusing ill patients with antibodies of people who survived COVID-19. Researchers believe it may be one of the most effective therapies because it’s safe and has a proven track record with other infectious diseases. “Right now, our best drug is the one that’s manufactured by those patients and those individuals who have recovered from this disease,” says David Perlin, biomedical researcher and chief scientific officer at Hackensack Meridian Health Center for Discovery and Innovation. 
 
Perlin and his colleague, Dr. Michele Donato, the lead investigator for the study, got expedited approval from the FDA to collect and test donors’ plasma to find the people with high quantities of the most powerful antibodies. Fewer than one third of the thousands of survivors offering to donate qualify, “It looks like about 20% of people have really, really an extraordinarily good immune response,” says Dr. Donato. “And what we’re looking at is if giving a quantity of neutralizing antibodies is the best way to approach it. But that’s what this study will tell us.”
 
60 Minutes reports on this distinct study and speaks with some of the donors, including Rick Loshiavo, who tells Whitaker, “There’s nothing I’ve done in my life to have these antibodies. But the fact that I have them, maybe I was blessed with them to help somebody.”

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