Sick plasma worth more than healthy

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    By Reed Larsen

    Last month Ty Mansfield learned that he had infectious mononucleosis, know as mono.

    He felt groggy and tired all of the time.

    Ty feared it would fall behind in school, and that his pocketbook would take a hit from lost work.

    Instead, Mansfield, 25, a senior from Roy majoring in Asian Studies, made money.

    Depending on how early mono is detected, and the level of antibodies, an infected individual can make up to $1,800 selling his or her plasma through a plasma collection center in Clearfield, near Ogden.

    “Until I got mono, I donated a lot (of plasma) down here (in Provo),” Mansfield said.

    Mansfield, however, did not make nearly as much money donating his healthy plasma as he did with his diseased plasma, he said.

    “I”d never heard before that people would pay that much for someone”s plasma, especially diseased plasma,” Mansfield said.

    Driving over an hour to Clearfield is worth it since Mansfield is from nearby Roy, he said. Plus, Mansfield received a nice check for selling his plasma.

    Mansfield has sold his plasma twice, making $200 each time.

    “It (the money) is basically going into the debt hole,” Mansfield said.

    However, students should not run to the health center to be tested for mono, said Cheryl Deming, Student Health Center laboratory supervisor.

    “It (mono) is a common viral disease among children,” she said. “Between 70 and 80 percent of students at BYU have probably already had mono as a child, and they and their parents didn”t even know it.”

    The Health Center diagnoses three or four students with mono a month, she said.

    Yet not all mono positive students can participate in the plasma program.

    “Just because you have mono doesn”t mean that you are in the range to donate,” said Anna Ress, SeraCare Life Sciences employee. SeraCare Life Sciences is a plasma collection company.

    If a student”s antibody level is high enough, the laboratory staff will help a student get in contact with a medical plasma dealer, Deming said.

    The Health Center works closely with Rand Phillips of Salt Lake County, a former employee of the Food and Drug Administration, who now buys and sells plasma with antibodies of various diseases to research companies as a part-time job.

    Phillips was reluctant to be interviewed, and declined to answer many questions concerning his program. Phillips cites past experiences of receiving phone calls in the middle of the night from individuals needing money and claiming to have mono or some other disease.

    Phillips rarely advertises in newspapers. He prefers his current program of receiving referrals from student health centers at BYU and the Utah University, he said.

    When Phillips does advertise, it is usually only college newspapers. College students are his best source for participants in his program, he said.

    “I do this (buy plasma) for two reasons,” Phillips said. “One, I do it for the students. I try to get them a little bit of money.

    “Two, I do it as a side job, a part-time job,” he said.

    Phillips pays students $200 each time they sell their plasma. Because of existing laws, Phillips can only buy plasma from a willing participant twice.

    However, if a person has sufficiently high levels after selling his or her plasma to Phillips, Phillips will help the participant get in contact with a SeraCare Life Sciences.

    SeraCare Life Sciences is authorized to buy a participants plasma up to four times, paying participants $300 each time, plus mileage, which is $43 for a trip from Provo to Clearfield.

    Mono is like most other diseases in that once one has had mono, he or she should not contract it again, Deming said.

    However, stress can cause the virus to break out again in someone, though not usually producing high antibody levels, she said.

    Mansfield has no idea as to how he contracted mono, but he is glad he did.

    “It sucked in the beginning, being sick and all,” he said. “But in hindsight, now that I”m feeling better, it”s great.”

    For more information on infectious mononucleosis visit the Center of Disease Control”s Web site on mono at www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/ebv.htm

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