What to know about COVID-19 convalescent plasma transfusion

Vicki Gonzalez

Some hospitalized COVID-19 patients are beginning to receive convalescent plasma transfusions to help combat the virus. UC Davis Medical Center used the treatment on its first two COVID-19 patients this week, through a partnership with Vitalant. Convalescent plasma transfusion is when a COVID-19 survivor donates their blood. The plasma in that blood is transfused into a current COVID-19 patient. “People who have recovered have generated antibodies. So, it’s giving antibodies back to the critically ill patient,” UC Davis School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear said. “The patients who had this transfusion are critically ill. They all have to be hospitalized and need to be treated under this protocol—which is an expanded, FDA approved, compassionate use.”Although the treatment is new for COVID-19, it’s been used for more than a century—most recently successful in other coronavirus outbreaks of SARS and MERS. “There is good evidence to know in other diseases that it’s worked,” Brashear said. “But there’s no evidence so far in any study in COVID-19 that it’s worked. But we are highly enthusiastic about this.”Vitalant, which specializes in blood and plasma donations, is the starting point for COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors. They began these donations earlier this month. “We’ve collected several dozen convalescent plasma products—and most of those have been transfused already. We’ve been absolutely delighted,” Vitalant Chief Medical Officer Chris Gresens said. “It’s a very small price to pay in order to potentially save another person’s life.” Gresens adds that an aggregate of thousands of convalescent plasma transfusions is needed to know if the treatment works on COVID-19 patients. “The early research done in China, with a limited number of patients, also seems to suggest this is likely to be helpful—but the proof will be in the pudding,” Gresens explained. To be a convalescent plasma donor: You need to have a positive nasal swab or antibody test for COVID-19. Be without symptoms for at least 28 days. Meet eligibility criteria at Vitalant for blood donation. Be at least 16 years old. At least 5’1” in height. Weigh at least 135 pounds.Those interested can complete an online pre-screening on Vitalant’s website. UC Davis Health is among 39 other institutions who united to offer convalescent plasma during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some hospitalized COVID-19 patients are beginning to receive convalescent plasma transfusions to help combat the virus.

UC Davis Medical Center used the treatment on its first two COVID-19 patients this week, through a partnership with Vitalant.

Convalescent plasma transfusion is when a COVID-19 survivor donates their blood. The plasma in that blood is transfused into a current COVID-19 patient.

“People who have recovered have generated antibodies. So, it’s giving antibodies back to the critically ill patient,” UC Davis School of Medicine Dean Allison Brashear said. “The patients who had this transfusion are critically ill. They all have to be hospitalized and need to be treated under this protocol—which is an expanded, FDA approved, compassionate use.”

Although the treatment is new for COVID-19, it’s been used for more than a century—most recently successful in other coronavirus outbreaks of SARS and MERS.

“There is good evidence to know in other diseases that it’s worked,” Brashear said. “But there’s no evidence so far in any study in COVID-19 that it’s worked. But we are highly enthusiastic about this.”

Vitalant, which specializes in blood and plasma donations, is the starting point for COVID-19 convalescent plasma donors. They began these donations earlier this month.

“We’ve collected several dozen convalescent plasma products—and most of those have been transfused already. We’ve been absolutely delighted,” Vitalant Chief Medical Officer Chris Gresens said. “It’s a very small price to pay in order to potentially save another person’s life.”

Gresens adds that an aggregate of thousands of convalescent plasma transfusions is needed to know if the treatment works on COVID-19 patients.

“The early research done in China, with a limited number of patients, also seems to suggest this is likely to be helpful—but the proof will be in the pudding,” Gresens explained.

To be a convalescent plasma donor:

You need to have a positive nasal swab or antibody test for COVID-19. Be without symptoms for at least 28 days. Meet eligibility criteria at Vitalant for blood donation. Be at least 16 years old. At least 5’1” in height. Weigh at least 135 pounds.

Those interested can complete an online pre-screening on Vitalant’s website.

UC Davis Health is among 39 other institutions who united to offer convalescent plasma during the COVID-19 pandemic.


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