Doc 'encouraged' after IU Health COVID-19 patients improve following plasma treatment

Richard Keller has COVID-19 and decided to donate his plasma to potentially help those in need after he was recovered. (WTHR/ Scott Allen)

INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) — Now nearly a week after local doctors asked for recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma, early results from patients who have received the therapy are being analyzed.

Dr. Nicholas Barros MD, an infectious disease specialist at IU Health said so far, four patients — one at Riley and three at Methodist Hospitals — have received convalescent plasma to treat COVID-19.

Barros said he is “encouraged” by the improvement he has seen in the two patients who received the plasma last week.

He reported that within 48 hours of infusion, both patients had an upgraded prognosis. Barros reports one of the patients is no longer receiving breathing assistance. The other patient according to Barros is relying less on breathing support. Barros said it is too early to report how the other two patients will respond since they received the plasma treatment in the last two days.

When considering treatments, Barros said there is more research and published studies on trial drug Remdesivir, and it is the prioritized treatment for COVID-19 patients. So far, IU Health has enrolled 10 patients in the Mayo Clinic trial of Remdesivir. How those patients responded to the treatment is not available. Patients who don’t qualify for the Remdesivir trial for a variety of reasons, including more than five days of multiple organ failure, or ECMO treatment, may be considered for the convalescent plasma trial.

Barros emphasizes the plasma treatment is also experimental and without more scientific data, it’s too soon to know if it can be credited for making the patients with severe, life-threatening cases of COVID-19, better.

Versiti in Indianapolis is collecting donated plasma and reports 33 total donations from recovered COVID-19 patients and 100 blood products collected for patient treatment since March 13.

One of the donors is Richard Keller. The 48-year-old pediatrician from Noblesville said starting in late February, the coronavirus infected his entire family. All four have since recovered and Keller considers his case insignificant.

“I was sitting in the Big 10 tournament, and I developed a very mild cough driving home. I think the biggest thing for me is just how minimal symptoms I had and was contagious. You know, that's the scariest thing to me” Keller said.

Keller may never know if his donation at Versiti is given to a patient enrolled in the trial. Nevertheless, he’s committed to setting aside one hour every Monday to donate plasma during the pandemic.

“It's the least I can do to help fight this and it's very easy to do,” Keller said. "Hopefully this is gonna work."