One of the avenues currently being pursued in terms of developing an effective treatment for COVID-19 is through the use of convalescent plasma. Basically, that means using the liquid component of blood from people who have had, and already recovered fully from, COVID-19 to produce treatments that hopefully translate to others the antibodies they developed over the course of fighting off the virus. The FDA has created a dedicated new website seeking recovered COVID-19 donations, and explaining its potential uses.
Use of convalescent plasma is hardly a new concept: It’s been in use since the late 1890s, in fact, and was employed during the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic, albeit with “mixed results.” Modern methods could help improve the efficacy and potential of recovered plasma as a treatment method, and there are a number of drugs in development that use plasma (both animal and human) as the basic active ingredient of their approach.
The new FDA website around COVID-19 plasma donation defines what it is, and why it’s under investigation as a possible treatment. It also outlines what conditions need to be met in order for an individual to be qualified to donate (no symptoms for at least 28 days prior to donation, or at least 14 days when combined with a confirmed negative lab test for active COVID-19 viral presence), and it directs you to donate via an American Red Cross or local blood center nearby.
Why is so much COVID-19 patient plasma needed, if it’s not yet even proven to be effective in treatment of the virus? Mainly because there are a lot of efforts underway to determine whether it actually can help with efforts to combat the virus, including clinical trials for a number of different treatments, as well as single-patient treatment authorizations through what are known as emergency investigational new drug (eIND) one-off usage approvals from the FDA.
As with every potential treatment and vaccine in development to address COVID-19 at this stage, recovered plasma remains unproven, and it’s unlikely ongoing efforts to study its effectiveness will bear definitive proof one way or another in the near term. Still, there’s a growing need for plasma supplies to help further that work, hence the FDA’s decision to spur more donations with dedicated informational resources like this one.