Microsoft built a ‘Plasma Bot’ to tell you if you can donate plasma to help fight COVID-19

Plasma taken from the blood of recovered COVID-19 patients stands a real chance of being one of the more effective short-term measures feasible in the ongoing effort to control the global coronavirus pandemic. The FDA has issued a broad call for donations from eligible individuals, and now Microsoft has built an online screening tool on behalf of the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance (which is funded in part by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).

The “CoVIg-19 Plasma Bot” that Microsoft created for the foundation is just the latest COVID-19-related bot built by Microsoft using its technology, and its symptom self-checker for the CDC was one of the earliest large-scale efforts of its kind in the U.S. The Plasma Bot takes you through a series of simple questions to determine your eligibility, from the perspective of both your ability to meet the actual biological and health requirements, to your willingness and a ability to participate in the plasma collection process itself at a donation center.

Use of convalescent plasma, or the liquid part of blood taken from people who have had, and subsequently fully recovered from, COVID-19, is a key treatment avenue being explored by a number of different scientists and researchers. The investigations into its use take two main paths: First, direct use of the plasma injected into coronavirus patients and high-risk individuals in order to boost their own immune system for either prevention or faster recovery; and development of what are known as hyperimmune therapies, which concentrate the antibodies from donated plasma to develop treatments that are potentially easier and more effective to administer at scale.

The biggest bottleneck to overcome for the trials and therapeutics in development related to convalescent plasma is definitely the plasma itself, which can only come from patients who’ve had COVID-19 and are now fully recovered and healthy, and who also meet other standard, existing requirements for donating blood and plasma.

Unlike a lot of other treatments under investigation and development to address COVID-19, convalescent plasma has been shown to have been effective in treating other respiratory infections, and it has a long history of use for such applications.