Alumni Division Announcements

Washington University performs, the first in St. Louis, transfusion of antibodies from plasma into COVID-19 patient.

Local COVID-19 patient gets experimental treatment based on century-old idea. 

Washington University physicians are testing a treatment for COVID-19 that brings back a therapy used during the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic. The treatment involves transfusing antibodies from the plasma of recovered COVID-19 patients into patients battling COVID-19 infection. On Saturday, as reported by KSDK, doctors performed the procedure on the first St. Louis patient. “Our hope is that this speeds their recovery and gets them off of a breathing tube or improves their ability to breathe and allows their own immune system to catch up,” said Jeffrey Henderson, associate professor of medicine and one of the leaders of the initiative. this episode, Jeffrey P. Henderson, MD, PhD, an associate professor of medicine and of molecular microbiology in the Division of Infectious Diseases, discusses the effort to test plasma as a way to treat very ill patients.

During the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic, doctors — recognizing that people who had recovered would have developed immunity to the infection — tried treating sick patients with blood plasma from those who had recovered, and in many cases it worked. In the early 2000s, the strategy was tried again, often successfully, in patients infected with SARS, a coronavirus related to the virus that causes COVID-19.

Now Henderson is one of the leaders of a nationwide trial, with colleagues at Johns Hopkins and Mayo Clinic, to test the strategy in patients with COVID-19. He said the next few weeks should help doctors know if the treatment will work for COVID-19 patients. They are hopeful because of the success the technique has had against other recent outbreaks like SARS and MERS.

“We’re both excited and cautious at the same time,” Henderson said.

Henderson said more than 20 recovered patients had already come forward to donate plasma. To be eligible, patients must have had a positive COVID-19 test and be recovered and symptom free for 14 days.

Potential donors can contact doctors at