OKLAHOMA CITY — OU Medicine is one o f about 100 facilities selected nationwide to try a n experimental, but seemingly promising therapy, to treat seriously ill COVID-19 patients, officials announced Thursday.

Dr. Jordan Metcalf, a pulmonary and critical care specialist, said the hospital learned Monday it will participate in a clinical trial a med to treat patients using plasma transfusions.

The clinical trial, approved by the Food and Drug Administration last Friday, takes plasma from the blood of patients recovered from COVID-19 and gives it to people who are really ill from the virus.

“We don’t have a very good therapy,” he said. “It’s a very new virus, so we haven’t really had time to catch up. “

Metcalf said 97 percent of those who have recovered from COVID-19 have developed antibodies to it. Medical professionals believe those antibodies can then be extracted through convalescent plasma donations and be given to the sickest Oklahomans who are suffering significant respiratory distress or in need of significant oxygen.

OU Medicine's first patient already was transferred to the facility, Metcalf said. That individual was expected to receive the state’s first plasma transfusion Thursday.

He said small trials in China, where the outbreak originated, suggest that giving the anti-bodied plasma improves a patient’s clinical status.

“I do research a significant amount of time so I hedge my bets, (but) I think there is very good evidence that this will help,” he said. “I think in all the small studies that have been published so far, this has shown a clear benefit.”

Metcalf said similar therapies were used to treat other viral infections like the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Plasma is routinely used today to treat people who have taken too much blood thinner.

Metcalf said the trial’s success, though, hinges on Oklahomans w ho have recovered from COVID-19 sharing their plasma so that they can build a supply bank that’s immediately available.

'We need a therapy before we have the peak of illness from people who have had the illness,” he said. “We kind of need the cake before we mix all the ingredients.”

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