SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — Sanford Health has given a patient critically ill with COVID-19 an infusion of plasma from someone who has recovered from the virus, the first use of the novel treatment by the health system.

The experimental treatment of a patient in Fargo is part of a national clinical trial to test the effect of antibody rich blood plasma in treating the illness caused by the coronavirus. Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., is leading the trial.

The blood plasma used in the treatment was obtained from the New York Blood Center, Sanford Health announced Monday, April 20. The Sioux Falls, S.D.-based health system is participating in the program at multiple sites and will use the therapy with more patients as needed in the coming weeks, it said.

The Sioux Falls-based health system has 44 medical centers and nearly 500 clinics in the Upper Midwest, including major hospitals in Sioux Falls, Fargo and Bemidji, Minn.

The treatment is for hospitalized patients with severe cases of COVID-19, Sanford Health said.

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“This is another step forward in our efforts to find effective treatments for this virus,” said Dr. Allison Suttle, Sanford Health chief medical officer, in a news release. “It’s still early, but we are optimistic that the disease-fighting antibodies found in plasma could potentially slow the progression of the disease in our sickest patients.”

The experimental program is being administered under the Expanded Access Program led by Mayo Clinic. The Food and Drug Administration designated Mayo as the lead institution on the study after granting emergency approval for compassionate use of the treatment.

Mayo is working with a high-power alliance of regulators, scientists and commercial partners to deliver the treatment to patients across the country.

The plasma treatment is considered to be perhaps the best known tool for treating COVID-19, as the medical community and researchers rush other treatments through testing and also work on a vaccine for the virus expected to be available sometime next year.

Studies suggest injecting plasma donated by a patient who has recovered from COVID-19 may shorten the length of the illness or lessen its severity.

The method, infusing blood plasma that is rich in antibodies, is not a new one. But its efficacy against coronavirus is still yet to be determined.