Can survivors provide breakthrough in fight against coronavirus?

Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 5:06 PM EDT
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Scientists are looking to COVID-19 survivors for a potential breakthrough in the fight against the virus. They’re hoping to harness antibodies from recovered patients. Here’s how one survivor in New York is on a mission to help make that happen.

Diana Berrent, 45, emerged from isolation on Monday and joyfully embraced her family. She then hopped in the car and headed straight to New York-Presbyterian Hospital to donate her plasma for a COVID-19 trial.

Doctors at Columbia University are trying to determine whether antibodies from survivors' blood can help.

"The goal is if we have enough plasma in the supply, then we can do trials to try to figure out where it might be most useful," said Dr. Eldad Hod, a clinical pathologist at New York-Presbyterian Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

Berrent started feeling ill on March 13. She was tested two days later and ultimately diagnosed with COVID-19. She followed the guidance to self-quarantine and holed up in the bedroom of her Long Island home. Her kids left her notes on the window and did magic tricks to entertain her. She had good days and bad days.

"One of the strange things about this virus is the road to recovery isn't necessarily a straight line," she said.

During her quarantine, Berrent launched the public Facebook group "Survivor Corps," which she now calls the epicenter of hope.

"My body figured out how to fight it off. So let’s use that superpower that my body created and transfer it to somebody whose immune system didn’t kick in the same way," she said.

Berrent plans to participate in additional studies and is encouraging other survivors to do the same.

Currently, the FDA is only allowing convalescent plasma use for the critically ill, on a compassionate, experimental basis.