St. Louis VA hospital is first to participate in study of COVID-19 treatment


ST. LOUIS – A St. Louis hospital is playing a critical role in developing a promising treatment for COVID-19 patients. The study, coordinated by the Mayo Clinic, wants to hear from those who have recovered from the virus.

The VA Medical Center in St. Louis is the first VA facility in the country to take part in this plasma treatment study.

“So, we are participating in what’s called an ‘expanded use program,’” said
Dr. Jay McDonald, chief of infectious diseases at the VA Medical Center.

McDonald is the principal investigator for the St. Louis study. He’s encouraging anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 to donate their blood at any donation center.

“People participating in this program or centers participating in this program around the country will enroll patients who are interested in participating and then, working with the blood donation centers, they’ll match a unit of blood to that patient,” he said.

The VA Medical Center already has enrolled two coronavirus patients willing to participate in the study. It might be the most promising treatment for them right now. The theory is a recovered patient’s blood has antibodies that fight the illness and may be able to be transferred to current patients.

“A lot of people think that this is close to the top of the list of promising potential treatments but, at this point, we don’t know that it works, which is why it is a research project,” McDonald said.

The doctor said he hopes to know in a matter of months if the plasma treatment is effective in battling the coronavirus.

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