Published on May 06, 2020

Chestnut Hill Hospital joins study to fight COVID-19

Chestnut Hill Hospital announced last week that it would participate in a new research trial organized by the Mayo Clinic to treat those infected with COVID-19 with the plasma of those who have recovered from the disease.

"The goal is to investigate the use of antibodies, presumed to be present in the plasma [of those who have recovered], as a treatment for those with the disease," read a statement from the hospital.

Chestnut Hill Hospital and other hospitals in the Tower Health system are among 40 institutions nationally to take part in the study. In Chestnut Hill, the critical care specialist Marc Diamond, MD, pulmonary disease, and Michael Goonewardene, MD, Ph. D, hospitalist, will evaluate patients who meet the criteria and may be eligible for treatment.

"People who've recovered from COVID-19 are presumed to have antibodies to the
disease in their blood," Diamond said. "We call this convalescent plasma. Researchers are hoping that convalescent plasma can be given to people with severe COVID-19 in hospitals like ours all over the country to boost patients' ability to fight the virus. This program may provide us another tool to fight the virus and save lives."

As a hospital operating in a corner of the state that has been hardest hit by COVID-19, Chestnut Hill has treated hundreds of patients with the disease. As of May 1, Chestnut Hill Hospital had reported 296 positive tests for COVID-19 out of 544 tested at the hospital. It was treating 49 patients for the disease and reported 77 inpatient deaths among those suffering from it.

Hospital officials said they were happy to use that experience to assist the national effort.

"Tower Health is pleased to support this important research which may bring relief to ill patients while also advancing our knowledge of COVID-19," said Debra Powell, MD, Chief, Section of Infectious Disease at Reading Hospital, which is also part of the Tower Health system.

According to the hospital's statement, individual requirements and safety guidelines have been established by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

"Before donated blood can be used, it must be tested for safety," reads the statement. "It then goes through a process to separate out blood cells so that all that's left is plasma with antibodies."

Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 may be eligible to donate blood to treat those with the disease. The hospital asks interested people to register with American Red Cross (red-cross.org) or another local donation center to qualify.