How blood plasma from recovered patients can treat COVID-19

Doctor explains experimental plasma treatment for COVID-19 patients
Doctor explains experimental plasma treatment for COVID-19 patients

There are still many questions about treatments for COVID-19.

Some doctors believe the answers may be running through the veins of survivors.

Dr. Simon Mucha, of Cleveland Clinic, said blood plasma donated from people who have recovered from COVID-19 may help treat those who are severely ill.

“We know that patients who recover from COVID-19 develop antibodies against COVID-19, which may give them some immunity against this disease,” he said. “We hope that by transfusing this plasma to patients who are acutely ill, this may help them recover faster.”

Blood plasma, or convalescent plasma, is the liquid part of blood and contains antibodies from diseases that the immune system has fought off.

Plasma from survivors is collected during a blood donation, separated from red blood cells and transfused into the sickest patients.

Recent data shows plasma is safe, but doctors aren’t yet sure how effective it is.

“One of the hopes is, obviously, that we can treat those who are acutely ill and critically ill in the ICU and give them a chance for recovery,” said Mucha. “The other hope, is that if more plasma becomes available and we get better at testing for antibodies -- as we’re learning more and more about this disease -- the application may be much broader than for those who are critically ill right now.”

The practice of using blood plasma to treat COVID-19 patients is being studied around the world, but there’s not enough plasma available to treat a large number of people -- or to conduct a robust research trial, according to Dr. Mucha.

He encourages those who have recovered from a confirmed case of COVID-19 to consider donating blood.

“If you had the disease and recovered, and you’re symptom-free for 14 days, you’re a potential donor,” said Mucha. “Those are really the only inclusion criteria.”

Mucha said if people have recovered from COVID-19 and are interested in donating blood, they should contact the American Red Cross for more information.