New York state plans to treat severe coronavirus patients with a 100-year-old blood therapy, which uses the plasma of recovered patients

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  • Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said Monday that his state plans to start treating coronavirus patients with the blood of recovered patients.
  • The use of so-called "convalescent plasma" dates back to the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918, but hasn't been used in a major way in the US for decades.
  • The therapy will involve injecting patients with the plasma of people who have recovered from the coronavirus, and therefore have the antibodies in their system needed to kill the virus.
  • It isn't a cure for the virus, but will help lessen patients' symptoms and help them recover faster.
  • Cuomo said this therapy will be trialed only on critically ill patients first, to see if it's safe and effective, then rolled out to other patients.
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Facing a tidal wave of coronavirus cases, New York state health officials are resorting to an antiquated treatment to help patients recover from COVID-19: the blood of patients who have already beaten the disease.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo told a Monday news conference that so-called "convalescent plasma" will start being used to treat coronavirus patients this week. Advertisement

The therapy will involve injecting patients with the plasma of people who have recovered from the coronavirus, and therefore have the antibodies in their system needed to kill the virus.

Initial reports from China suggest that this treatment method can lessen the symptoms of coronavirus, NBC News reported. It isn't a cure for the illness, but it may help patients recover faster while the world waits for a vaccine, which could take months.

The blood therapy dates back to the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918, but hasn't been put into widespread use in the US for decades.
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Cuomo said this therapy will be trialed only on critically ill patients first, to see if it's safe and effective, then rolled out to patients before severe symptoms appear. Dr. Arturo Casadevall, an infectious-diseases expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, has been pushing for the use of convalescent plasma. He told NBC News that studies have shown it to be effective in shielding healthcare workers from becoming seriously ill as well. Advertisement

The state will need to get permission from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before they are able to put the therapy into trial. The FDA confirmed to NBC News that they are working "expeditiously to facilitate the development and availability" of convalescent plasma.

New York state health officials said they will start identifying patients to donate their blood, focusing on the New Rochelle area where there is the highest concentration of recovered cases.

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