Northside Hospital and Atlanta Blood Services are asking patients who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma for COVID-19 treatment.
Convalescent plasma, which according to health care officials has been used for over 100 years to treat patients with infectious diseases, is urgently needed.
“Patients who have had COVID-19 in the past and have recovered have presumably made antibodies to the virus that are circulating in their bloodstream,” said Executive Director of Atlanta Blood Services Carrie Cox. “The concept here is through a regular blood donation process, the person who has recovered from COVID-19 can donate the liquid portion of the blood, the plasma, that contains those antibodies.”
Cox added that the plasma can then be stored and then used for a patient who is seriously ill and is in need. The convalescent plasma can be transfused to the patient and the antibodies that are coming from the donor go to fight the viral infection in the patient, Cox said.
Qualified plasma donors must be over the age of 18, have previously tested positive for COVID-19, or had a positive COVID-19 antibody test and have recovered from the virus, have been symptom free for at least 14 days, and should successfully screen as a blood donor per blood donation guidelines.
“There’s still a lot we don’t know about this virus, and we don’t know how long the long-term immunity is going to be, so there’s a lot we still have to learn,” Cox said. “The use of convalescent plasma has been used effectively to treat the Spanish flu, polio, and other viral illnesses, so when the COVID-19 pandemic started and we had nothing to treat it, the blood and medical industries came together to say ‘let’s give this a try.’”
Cox said that the FDA gave the okay to grant Investigational New Drug status to this process to see if it successfully treats the illness. She added that the first data was published recently, stating that the treatment was safe and the rate of adverse reactions was very low. Efficacy data is expected to be published in the coming months.
“Patients have been able to receive plasma on the same day that it has been ordered, within hours of the doctor saying the patient needs it,” Cox said. “Right now our inventory is critically low and we are afraid we won’t be able to maintain our standards if we don’t receive plasma donations urgently. We will continue doing the collections as long as we have reason to believe that the treatment is helping and that we have qualified donors.”
Atlanta Blood Services has donation facilities in Marietta and at Northside Hospital in Sandy Springs. Convalescent plasma is only collected at the Sandy Springs location. Donations are Monday through Friday.