If you haven’t been immunized and you become infected with COVID-19, you’ll go through this initial viral phase where the virus replicates. The virus replicates in tissues in the nose, sometimes in the lungs. It takes around seven to 12 days for the immune system to begin making antibodies. For most people, the immune system will catch up and check the virus, allowing them to recover, but some don’t. Those are the ones who then get massive inflammation and end up in the emergency room.
COVID-19 convalescent plasma, also known as “survivor’s plasma,” or CCP, contains antibodies, or special proteins, generated by the body’s immune system.
Convalescent plasma treatment differs from monoclonal antibody treatment, which is still being used in hospitals and the subject of clinical trials.
Monoclonal antibodies are produced in a lab, at much higher concentrations than antibodies contained in convalescent plasma.
Both plasma and monoclonal antibodies have the same active ingredient. The best plasma comes from donors who have a lot of antibodies called high-titer.
Plasmapheresis is the standard procedure by which plasma is separated from whole blood and collected. Blood flows through a single needle placed in an arm vein, into a machine that contains a sterile, disposable plastic kit. The plasma is isolated and channeled out into a special bag, and red blood cells and other parts of the blood are returned to you through the same needle.
The National Institutes of Health has halted a clinical trial evaluating the safety and effectiveness of COVID-19 convalescent plasma in treating emergency department patients who developed mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19. The final results of the Clinical Trial of COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma in Outpatients (C3PO) demonstrate that COVID-19 convalescent plasma did not prevent disease progression in a high-risk group of outpatients with COVID-19, when administered within the first week of their symptoms.
However, each year, about 7,000 units of whole blood are needed in the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center (CC) to treat patients undergoing cancer therapy, organ and tissue transplants, and other diseases that require blood transfusions.
Whole blood consists of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets suspended in a protective yellow liquid known as plasma. One pint (unit) of whole blood is usually processed by a spinning method into:
- red blood cells, which carry the oxygen needed by patients who are anemic
- platelets, needed by patients who are bleeding
- plasma, transfused to patients whose blood is not clotting.
Please do not donate blood or platelets if any of the following apply to you:
In the last 10 days, you have
- Been diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 and had symptomatic disease OR
- Had a positive diagnostic test for SARS-CoV-2 (e.g. nasopharyngeal swab), but never developed symptoms
In the last 21 days, you have
- Been diagnosed with or suspected of having a monkeypox infection OR
- Developed a rash or other symptoms suggestive of monkeypox infection
- Had close contact with a person or an animal diagnosed with or suspected of having monkeypox infection
The current criteria for convalescent plasma donation are:
- You must meet all routine blood donor criteria
- You need to have had a positive test for COVID-19
- You need to have recovered from COVID-19, with NO symptoms for at least 28 days
- IF you have recovered with NO symptoms for at least 14 days, but less than 28 days, then you need to have a repeat test that shows that you are now negative for COVID-19
While donated blood is free, there are significant costs associated with collecting, testing, preparing components, labeling, storing and shipping blood, recruiting and educating donors, and quality assurance.
As a result, processing fees are charged to recover costs. Hospitals charge for any additional testing that may be required, such as the crossmatch, as well as for the administration of the blood.