Dartmouth-Hitchcock Participates in COVID-19 Treatment Research

Blood plasma collection

Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health’s Academic Medical Center - Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) is evaluating the use of plasma rich in antibodies as a COVID-19 treatment. Supported by federal government agencies including the Federal Drug Administration and the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), and with the Mayo Clinic serving as the Institutional Review Board, the DHMC program is making plasma collection, processing and access to treatment easier for patients throughout northern New England.

“Treatments with convalescent plasma, or plasma from patients who have recovered from a disease, date back to the Spanish Flu of 1918,” said Zbigniew Szczepiorkowski, MD, PhD, who, along with Richard Zuckerman, MD, MPH, serves as the project’s principal investigator. 

“Reports suggest that treatment using convalescent plasma, which likely contains SARS-CoV-2 antibodies, could be a viable and safe option that may alter the course of COVID-19 in patients with severe disease and few alternatives,” said Zuckerman.

Studies cited by the protocol for “Expanded Access to Convalescent Plasma for the Treatment of Patients with COVID-19” at the Mayo Clinic, have indicated that recovery from COVID-19 might be faster with convalescent plasma treatment. Initial data indicates that patients with severe disease improve after just a single 200 ml dose. While promising, and one of the only treatments currently available, more study is needed.

DHMC is leveraging its state-of-the-art Transfusion Medicine Service and altruistic patient population to provide convalescent plasma treatment and to contribute to national research. “The response from our community has been amazing,” said Jenna Khan, MD, Transfusion Medicine Fellow at DHMC. “People have been eager and willing to do anything they can to help others suffering from the disease. Many potential donors have also been referring us to friends and family members that had COVID-19.”

After acceptance for participation in the program, COVID-19 survivors will have blood drawn in the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Blood Donor Program, located on the DHMC campus in Lebanon, NH. A single blood draw can provide plasma for up to two patients, as well as samples for research, including the development of a test at DHMC to measure COVID-19 antibody levels. This test can then be used to evaluate immune status and exposure history.

“DHMC is very happy to be part of this national effort to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma treatment for COVID-19 while potentially providing benefit for our sickest patients,” said Zuckerman. 

Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and are over 18 years of age, and are interested in being evaluated for donation should call 603-653-3775 or email DHMC.Blood.Program@hitchcock.org and be prepared to provide the date of their last symptoms. Donors who have confirmed COVID-19 testing or a presumptive diagnosis of COVID-19 from a physician will be eligible to donate after they have been symptom free for at least 28 days.

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About Dartmouth-Hitchcock

DARTMOUTH-HITCHCOCK HEALTH (D-HH), New Hampshire’s only academic health system and the state’s largest private employer, serves a population of 1.9 million across Northern New England. D-H provides access to more than 2,400 providers in almost every area of medicine, delivering care at its flagship hospital, Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center (DHMC) in Lebanon, NH. DHMC was named in 2019 as the #1 hospital in New Hampshire by U.S. News & World Report, and recognized for high performance in 13 clinical specialties and procedures. Dartmouth-Hitchcock Health also includes the Norris Cotton Cancer Center, one of only 51 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the nation; the Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, the state’s only children’s hospital; affiliated member hospitals in Lebanon, Keene, and New London, NH, and Windsor, VT, and Visiting Nurse and Hospice for Vermont and New Hampshire; and 24 Dartmouth-Hitchcock clinics that provide ambulatory services across New Hampshire and Vermont. The D-H system trains nearly 400 residents and fellows annually, and performs world-class research, in partnership with the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth and the White River Junction VA Medical Center in White River Junction, VT.