ST. CLOUD -- CentraCare medical researchers are on the cutting edge of a potentially life-saving COVID-19 treatment.

CentraCare is one of about 2,000 health systems participating in a nationwide study on the use of convalescent plasma therapy as a treatment for COVID-19.

Dawn Bauerly-Pieper is a CentraCare RN and the clinical research supervisor for the study. Bauerly-Pieper says patients fighting COVID-19 infections will receive plasma donated by individuals who have already recuperated from the virus.

“People who have recovered (from COVID-19) have built up antibodies in their blood, which are proteins the body uses to fight off infections,” Bauerly-Pieper explained. “The liquid portion of this blood is called plasma, and that’s what’s being used to help boost a person’s ability to fight off the virus. It also may help people who are moderately ill from becoming more ill.”

Donating plasma, Bauerly-Pieper says, is much like donating blood. While convalescent plasma therapy is in an experimental phase with regard to COVID-19, she says it has proven itself to be very effective in the past.

“The process of doing this has worked in previous outbreaks of respiratory diseases,” she said. “The early data is also suggesting that it may be working for COVID-19. So, we are fairly confident that this may be a great option for patients.”

Bauerly-Pieper says CentraCare is notifying people who have tested positive for COVID-19 of the project, but recovered individuals can also volunteer to donate plasma through the American Red Cross. Eligible donors must be at least 17 years old and 110 pounds, in good health, and have fully recovered from a verified case of COVID-19.

To learn more or fill out a donor eligibility form, visit the American Red Cross website.