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Convalescent Plasma Treatment for COVID-19 Shows Early Promising Results in U Wisconsin (UW) Hospital Study; Asthma & Respiratory Allergies Associated with Reduced Expression of COVID-19 Cell Receptor (ACE2), According to Results of Second UW-Led Study

Two weeks after the first Madison, Wisconsin-area donor contributed convalescent plasma ( to treat COVID-19 patients at University of Wisconsin (UW) Hospital, 14 patients have been treated, with some showing significant improvement, a doctor said Friday. Plasma from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 that presumably contains anti-COVID-14 antibodies, are being transfused into patients struggling with complications of the disease at UW Hospital and some 40 centers around the country ( The treatment is experimental, but the approach is hardly new, with so-called convalescent plasma used for more than a century to combat ailments such as the 1918 influenza epidemic, the Ebola virus outbreak, and diseases such as MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) caused by other coronaviruses. Approximately 45 recovered patients from Dane County (in which the state capital of Madison is located) have donated plasma, the liquid portion of blood that contains antibodies to fight infections, and others have begun the process to donate, said Dr. William Hartman, a UW Health anesthesiologist heading up UW Hospital’s study. Each donor can help treat two or three patients, and plasma donated locally may be used at UW Hospital or other centers, Dr. Hartman said. People who would like to donate their plasma can learn more by calling 608-262-8300 or emailing Since the first two UW Hospital patients were treated with convalescent plasma on April 12, 2020, another dozen have been treated at the hospital, Dr. Hartman said. All but one used plasma from local donors, which must be matched just like transfused blood. “Early results are encouraging,” Dr. Hartman said. “We’ve seen pretty good outcomes.”

Some patients who appear to need intensive care have avoided such care after treatment, and some on ventilators have gotten off the breathing machines or had them dialed down, Dr. Hartman said.

However, plasma doesn’t appear to help some patients. “We have seen patients who are not progressing as we would hope once they’ve received the plasma,” he said.

It’s not possible to quantify the benefit of the treatment, or the lack of one, because the early-stage study is not comparing patients with others not getting plasma, Dr. Hartman said.

Further studies will give doctors a better idea of the treatment’s safety and effectiveness, and in which patients plasma might work best.


Meanwhile, another UW Hospital-led study has provided a possible explanation for why people with asthma and allergies seem to have fewer life-threatening complications of COVID-19.

This second study (, published on Thursday, April 23, 2020, in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, found that people with asthma or respiratory allergies have reduced gene expression of a cell-surface protein called ACE2 (angiotensin-converting enzyme 2), that the COVID-19 binds to in order to gain access to cell’s interior. This journal article is titled "Association of Respiratory Allergy, Asthma and Expression of the SARS-CoV-2 Receptor, ACE2."

Higher expression of ACE2 is associated with smoking, diabetes, and hypertension, known risk factors for increased COVID-19 disease severity, according to the newspaper article.

The second UW Hospital-led study, was headed up by Dr. Daniel Jackson, MD, of the UW School of Medicine and Public Health, and a UW Health pediatrician. The study was prompted by early reports about the corona virus from China.

“We were surprised to learn that the COVID-19 pandemic in China did not seem to impact people with asthma as severely as we would’ve expected it to,” Dr. Jackson said in a statement, the Wisconsin State Journal article reported.

The senior author of this ACE2 expression study is Matthew C. Altman, MD, of the University of Washington’s Department of Medicine and the Benaroya Research Institute (Systems Immunology Division), also in Seattle.


The above BioQuick News article is based largely on a Wisconsin State Journal newspaper report authored by David Wahlberg, and published in the April 25, 2020 issue of the paper. The article was made available online for free to the Madison community by the newspaper “as a public service to our readers during the corona virus outbreak.” The newspaper encouraged readers to support local journalism by subscribing ( Michael D. O’Neill, Editor & Publisher of BioQuick News (, is a resident of Madison, Wisconsin, which is the site of the prize-winning, global, online magazine’s world headquarters. Mr. O’Neill can be contacted by email at

[Wisconsin State Journal article] [Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology abstract] [Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology article]


Jason Storkson (left) of the American Red Cross in Madison, Wisconsin, collects plasma from Gary Dalgaard, of Sun Prairie, Wisconsin, for use by a UW Hospital patient fighting COVID-19. Dalgaard had previously recovered from the respiratory disease caused by the new corona virus COVID-19. (Credit: UW Health).