Coronavirus: Irvine couple among first in SoCal to donate blood plasma to COVID-19 study amid urgent search for treatment

An Irvine couple who recovered from coronavirus is among the first in the Southland to donate to a study that researchers say is showing encouraging results as a potential coronavirus treatment.
IRVINE, Calif. (KABC) -- Amid an urgent need for survivors of COVID-19 to donate blood plasma to critically ill patients, an Irvine couple who recovered from coronavirus is among the first in the Southland to donate to a study that researchers say is showing encouraging results.

While COVID-19 has no proven treatment, plasma taken from those who have beat the virus may help current patients.

Experience with historical infectious diseases has shown that convalescent plasma can be a beneficial viral treatment and prophylactic medicine.

Lisa Loya's 27-year-old daughter, Lauren Acosta, has been on a ventilator, fighting for her life for the past week at St. Mary's Hospital in Apple Valley.

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Her doctors have so far been unable to get her on remdesavir, a medicine showing promise for coronavirus patients, so the next option would be a blood plasma transfusion from a patient who has already recovered from the virus.

"She's going to come home. She will come home with us one day," Loya said.

Individuals can donate convalescent plasma if they have a confirmed positive laboratory test and no COVID-19 symptoms for the last 28 days, or symptom free for at least 14 days and test negative for COVID-19.

Janie and George Nichols could be potential donors. The Orange County couple both contracted coronavirus in mid-March and were asked to take part in a new plasma study run by Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach.

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"They asked if we could be the first in Orange County to donate our convalescent plasma, and we said yes. George and I are number 1 and 2," Janie Nichols said.

The potential impact of the plasma donations is providing hope.

"They told me we could potentially save 5 to 7 lives," George Nichols said.

Until a vaccine is developed, there are only two ways for a person to have antibodies against COVID-19. One is to get the virus and survive, the other is to receive the blood plasma transfusion. It is a method that works with other viruses but has yet to be proven to work with coronavirus.

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"We've actually had three patients who were subjected to convalescent plasma treatment under this protocol and we are encouraged by the results," said Dr. Michael Brant-Zawadzki, senior physician executive with Hoag Hospital.

Acosta's family is hopeful that enough convalescent plasma is donated that doctors in Apple Valley are able to give it a try before it's too late.

"The plasma's the best bet that we can give her, because we can keep her in the hospital where she's at. The transfer would be really hard for her to tolerate," Loya said.

Find more information on donating blood plasma here.

City News Service contributed to this report.
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