A San Diego musician who contracted COVID-19 in March is now donating his plasma in the hope that his antibodies will help others stricken with the virus.
Drew Andrews, 41, contracted the virus March 22 and self-quarantined at his Lemon Grove home for 14 days. On Tuesday, he sat in a chair at a San Diego Blood Bank donation center in El Cajon, giving blood for the cause.
“I’m here to try to help the people who maybe have gotten COVID 19 who are not as healthy as well,” Andrews said.
Right now, it’s not known if Andrews’ plasma will have viable antibodies to move forward. But medical experts say antibody treatment, though offering mixed results, is a critical step to understanding the virus and potentially helping others stricken with COVID 19.
“We need to know what works and what doesn’t work,” said Dr. Edward Cachay, an infectious disease specialist with UC San Diego Health.
Cachay said that studies show antibody infusions reduced the H1N1 mortality rate between 30-34 percent. However, he said that rate declined to 6 percent for SARS.
Furthermore, Cachay said, contracting and recovering from the coronavirus doesn’t necessarily mean antibodies will be present.
“Up to 30 percent of people who recover from the virus will not have enough neutralizing antibodies to have a real effect,” Cachay said.
Cachay also said 5 percent of the people who have recovered from the virus will have no antibodies. But, he said, it's worth the effort to research antibody testing until there's a vaccine.
Andrews said he’s willing to do whatever he can to help doctors learn more about the virus and help others.
“I don’t know exactly what will happen, how greatly it will be of help or aid, but I’d like to at least try," Andrews told NBC 7. "It’ll be interesting to see what comes from it, how many people will be helped.”
Andrews said he was motivated to donate his blood after reading a social media post from a woman who was desperately seeking a donor for her ailing husband. By the time Andrews was eligible to donate his plasma, the woman’s husband had passed away from the virus.
“It was a promise that I made to that person to do my best to give back now, and that’s what she asked of me, and so I’m holding to that promise,” Andrews said.
Andrews’ blood will be sent to the private lab Genalyte, which has partnered with the San Diego Blood Bank for antibody testing. He’s expected to learn whether he has viable antibodies within 24-48 hours.
According to a Genalyte press release, the antibody testing service is meant for people who are no longer experiencing any symptoms and have been symptom-free for at least 14 days.