Part 1: Local doctor uses COVID-19 plasma for clinical trials

Dr. Augusto Ramos
Dr. Augusto Ramos(KGNS)
Published: Apr. 20, 2020 at 11:58 AM CDT
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As the coronavirus pandemic rages on, research institutions across the U.S. are scrambling to develop both a vaccine to protect the population and some kind of antiviral medication to treat it.

One such institution is the renowned Mayo Clinic which currently is overseeing several ongoing clinical trials.

Across the country, more than 40,000 lives have been lost to COVID-19 and that number continues to rise by the hour.

But there is some good news, 800 medical facilities and 700 physicians across the nation have all registered with the Mayo Clinic to do their part in finding a cure and that includes one such individual right here in Laredo.

Dr. Augusto Ramos has been a surgical and clinical pathologist for 38 years, it's a specialty he says rarely takes him out of his lab.

One Sunday night, Dr. Ramos received a phone call from Laredo cardiologist Dr. Ricardo Cigarroa whose been caring for several positive COVID-19 patients over the last month.

The call asking Dr. Ramos for plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient.

The process called passive immunity or convalescent plasma therapy is a method that's used to kickstart a person's immune system.

Ramos says, "We're using that antibody and transfusing that plasma that contains the antibody against that COVID-19 virus to kill the virus that's in the sick patient."

It was first used in the late 1890's to treat diphtheria, then later to successfully treat the Spanish influenza, measles, and more recently SARS and even Ebola.

The Mayo Clinic's clinical trial calls for using this antibody-rich plasma only on patients who are critically ill from COVID-19.

Ramos says, “There’s two criteria, one the patient that's severely ill or a patient that is ready to pass. The ladder being patients who have multi system organ failure or patients that are septic shock or patients who have respiratory difficulty.”

And with very little time left to live, Dr. Cigarroa's patient was the perfect candidate but getting COVID-19 convalescent plasma down to Laredo would prove challenging.

With Laredo Medical Center, along with himself, Dr. Cigarroa and infection control physician Fernando Sanchez, already accredited it was on to the next challenge.

Doing whatever he needed to do, he managed to get his request moved up 13 spots on the waitlist.

So when the perfect donor was found, one who matched the patient's blood type and whose blood was completely COVID-19 free it was his.

The only thing left to do was to ship the plasma to Laredo and start preparing Dr. Cigarroa's patient for the experimental transfusion.

And with no time to waste, the very day it arrived, that night the patient underwent the 20-minute procedure.

With so much anticipation, Doctor Ramos called the next morning as soon as he woke up to check on the patient and what he was told took him by surprise.

To view the second part of this story, you can click