SHREVEPORT, La. – Doctors at LSU Health Sciences Center Shreveport shared updates on their COVID-19 trials and research Wednesday.
Phase two in the fight against COVID-19 is ramping up. The fight began with testing, now it's the race to find a treatment and eventually a vaccine. Convalescent plasma is so far showing great promise.
Microbiologists are able to identify antibodies that fight COVID-19 in the blood of a person who was infected. The limitation is that the presence of antibodies is small at the beginning of an infection.
The LSU Health Shreveport Serology Testing Lab will work in collaboration with Lifeshare Blood Center to analyze donated plasma.
Doctors said what's remarkable about LSU's serological test is that it can distinguish COVID-19 antibodies from antibodies that fight the common cold.
"Unlike the virus that most of us thankfully clear and get rid of, the antibodies last a really long time so we'll be able to really track who has seen this virus and get a better understanding going on. And this is the type of data that we need to make really intelligent decisions moving forward," said Matthew Woolard, associate professor microbiology & immunology at LSUHSC.
LSU Health Shreveport also announced today it is re-purposing the Partners in Wellness van to reach rural parishes. Thursday at 10 a.m., the van will be in Union Parish at Community Health Services in Marion.
Then, on April 25 and May 2 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. the mobile unit will be at the David Raines clinic in the MLK area in Shreveport.
Dates for testing in the Cedar Grove and Moretown, Gillam, and North Caddo Parish neighborhoods are still in the works, as well as Haynesville, Claiborne and Webster parishes.
But that's not all of the news shared today by LSU Health Shreveport.
Two people are now enrolled in the inhaled nitric oxide clinical trial. The screening of critical patients began last week. LSUHSC has three machines that can deliver the gas at the levels needed for these critical patients.
Dr. Keith Scott, the principle investigator of the trial, said the gas will help kill the virus in patient's lungs, and a side effect helps improve oxygenation by improving blood flow, to better parts of the lung.
Scott said they are getting ready to start treating less severe patients in a similar way.
"Say they just have a fast respiratory rate, or maybe mild pneumonia, but don't require a ventilator and in that we give them two 30-minute treatments a day about 12 hours apart and with the hope that it will help again mitigate this disease, keep it from advancing to the point where they will need ventilation," said Scott.
That treatment could start in the next day or two. And another clinical trial going on at LSUHSC is the convalescent plasma therapy program.
Dr. Martha Whyte, the Region 7 Louisiana Department of Health spokeswoman, shared Wednesday how her husband's health has improved since he received plasma. She said he is still critical, but stable.
Whyte encourages more people who recover from COVID-19 to donate their plasma.
"The convalescent serum was beneficial to my husband and I know that it stabilized him at a time when he was on a downward trajectory. And I'm thankful so much to David Langston and the other people who have donated. It's so important, it's something that if you have survived this virus and you are on the other side of it you should be grateful and thankful and counting your blessings," said Whyte.
Whyte said women who have recovered and want to donate their plasma will have to go through another test at the blood bank. If you’d like to make a plasma donation reach out to Whyte at email@example.com.