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2 Treasure Valley hospitals test new convalescent plasma therapy for the coronavirus

"The idea behind it is that people who have just recovered from a COVID-19 illness can donate their blood or plasma."

BOISE, Idaho — Some Treasure Valley hospitals are participating in a new study that could help patients who are diagnosed with a severe case of coronavirus.

"As you probably know there are very few therapies that have shown to be helpful in this disease and at this point we are trying everything available," said Dr. Kenny Bramwell with St. Luke's.

That includes convalescent plasma therapy. The trial treatment is part of a new study that both West Valley Medical Center in Caldwell and St. Luke's hospital are taking part in. 

"The idea behind it is that people who have just recovered from a COVID-19 illness can donate their blood or plasma and that plasma contains antibodies and those antibodies will help other people who are now suffering from COVID-19," said Dr. Bramwell.

"Critically ill patients are who they are targeting for this therapy," added Betsy Hunsicker, the West Valley Medical Center's CEO.

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Dr. Bramwell and Hunsicker agreed early data show convalescent plasma therapy has been effective in other areas.

"This has worked in a limited fashion in other locations, such as in China and in New York City," Dr. Bramwell said. "We don't have what I will call solid data, where we have published results, where we have peer-reviewed magazines."

"They had some success with the previous with the SARS and the MERS," Hunsicker said.

In order to offer this treatment to more Idahoans with a severe case of coronavirus, more plasma donations are needed.

"That is the critical need right now to help the study move forward is to have patients who have recovered and who had a positive test," Hunsicker said. "Have them make a plasma donation that could be used in this study."

Hunsicker added that these plasma donations could also be useful if there is another uptick in cases when the stay at home orders are relaxed.

"Potentially if there is another surge in the fall or later on, at that point, we could have more information and this could be a treatment that could be used maybe more broadly," said Hunsicker.

KTVB reached out to Saint Alphonsus as well, the hospital sais they are not participating in convalescent plasma therapy just yet, but if they do have a patient who is a candidate for the treatment and there is a local supply of plasma then they certainly will try it.

Gretchen Parsons is an anchor, reporter and producer at KTVB since 2016. You can follow her on Instagram @gretchenparsonsKTVB or  @gretchenKTVB on Twitter.

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