Plasma treatments for patients with COVID-19

Convalescent plasma, which is plasma derived from patients recovering from an illness, has shown promising results when used to treat patients with the coronavirus.

How does plasma therapy work?

The idea behind convalescent plasma therapy is that antibodies found in recovered COVID-19 patients could be transfused into patients with the novel coronavirus to help them in their recovery. Antibodies are proteins made by the immune system to attack viruses. This concept is not new. Medical literature written during the Spanish flu pandemic in the early 20th century shows how plasma from patients recovering from the Spanish flu reduced the death rate significantly in new Spanish flu patients. Additionally, plasma therapy was used successfully in both the Ebola and avian flu outbreaks.

With the known success rate of convalescent plasma therapy used to treat patients in past pandemics, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved clinical trials for plasma therapy in patients with COVID-19 in late March.

Since then, many hospitals have started collecting the blood plasma of recovering COVID-19 patients. The plasma will be used in a national study to test whether plasma from convalescent COVID-19 patients could help in treating the new patients.

University Hospital is one of the many hospitals registered to make plasma available to COVID-19 patients. Patients are eligible to receive plasma therapy if they:

  • Are at least 18 years old - there are also plasma studies for children being conducted at this time
  • Have a laboratory confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19
  • Have been admitted to an acute care facility for complications from the coronavirus
  • Have severe, life-threatening COVID-19 symptoms or are judged to be at high-risk to develop complications

Can I donate plasma if I’ve had COVID-19?

If you have fully recovered from COVID-19 you may be eligible to donate your plasma. To meet the criteria to donate:

  • You must be at least 17 years old and weigh at least 110 pounds; there are additional weight requirements for donors under the age of 18
  • You must be in good health
  • Have a verified diagnosis of having had COVID-19 and show that you are now symptom-free and have been fully recovered for at least two weeks

You can donate your plasma at University Hospital or other donation centers including:

“The generous gift of blood and blood components from our community’s amazing donors has always been a lifesaving gift for our patients who are sick or injured," said Stephanie Whitehead, executive director of pathology services at University Health. "Plasma donations from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are an additional way to give the gift of life to members of our community who need it.”

Other ways you can help coronavirus patients

If you’re not eligible to donate convalescent plasma, you can still help people who are diagnosed with or recovering from the coronavirus.

And of course, the best way to help during this pandemic is to practice good social distancing techniques and remember to wash your hands often to stop the spread of COVID-19.

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