Universitätsklinikum Erlangen given go ahead to produce COVID-19 immune plasma

Prof. Dr. Holger Hackstein in front of the apheresis machine which is to be used to extract blood plasma from the blood of former coronavirus patients to treat COVID-19 patients. (Image: FAU/Georg Pöhlein)

Therapy for coronavirus patients

The Department of Transfusion Medicine and Haemostaseology at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen is one of the first clinics in Germany to have been granted official permission to produce therapeutic plasma to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients. ‘We are extremely pleased and grateful that the government of Upper Franconia has processed our application so quickly,’ says Prof. Dr. Holger Hackstein, Head of Transfusion Medicine at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen.

‘We have been in intense dialogue with the government in Upper Franconia for weeks now. It was certainly worth our while,’ Prof. Hackstein adds. The Department of Transfusion Medicine at Universitätsklinikum Erlangen is now allowed to produce and use COVID-19 immune plasma to treat critically ill patients. ‘Thanks to the resoundingly positive reaction to our call for donations from former coronavirus patients, we are able to start with plasma apheresis production straightaway,’ reports Prof. Hackstein

Last Thursday, Prof. Hackstein appealed to former coronavirus patients in Franconia to donate blood plasma. Within a matter of hours, more than 200 people who had recovered from COVID-19 volunteered to donate blood plasma. ‘That is far more than we can include in our programme at the current time,’ explains Prof. Hackstein, who is clearly delighted with the response. ‘We are not currently looking for any further donors.’

Each of the former COVID-19 patients are now being assessed individually. ‘When looking for volunteers, it was important that they could submit evidence that they tested positive for the coronavirus when they first fell ill, and then tested negative, preferably twice, after recovering.’ It takes approximately 45 minutes to donate blood plasma, and the procedure is no more strenuous for the donor than giving blood,’ Prof. Hackstein explains. ‘The bodies of those who have recovered from an infection with COVID-19 have created specific antibodies against the virus which we can now extract using an apheresis machine.’

Fatal COVID-19 infections could be avoided

‘Current scientific data suggest that COVID-19 immune plasma could significantly mitigate the life-threatening progression of the disease,’ according to Prof. Hackstein. At the current time, there are 19 COVID-19 patients in Universitätsklinikum Erlangen, 11 of them in intensive care. ‘If our initiative is successful, it could significantly improve treatment of the disease, and several other university hospitals are set to start work on the same procedure in the near future.’

Further information

Michael Rabenstein
Phone: + 49 9131 85 46777

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