Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19

By Rebecca Israel, MS & Charles Li, MD

April 12, 2020

  • Individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 often possess antibodies against COVID-19.

  • These antibodies, when given to other patients with an ongoing serious case of COVID-19, can help patients recover faster.

  • Preliminary data shows that these antibodies may be effective in the most serious cases of COVID-19.

Convalescent plasma

What is Plasma?

Your blood contains a mix of cells, proteins, and other molecules all in a fluid.

Plasma refers to the liquid portion of blood.

When patients recover from a disease, this portion of blood contains antibodies, which your body used to fight off that particular infection.

How Convalescent Plasma Works

After a patient recovers from COVID-19, research shows that they can "share" their recovery with other patients who are currently suffering from a serious case.

Recently recovered COVID-19 patients may be able to help save the lives of other COVID-19 patients by simply donating their blood, as the data below suggests.

Study 1: 5 Critically Ill COVID-19 Patients

Researchers in one study gave plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients to 5 very ill COVID-19 patients. Before receiving this treatment, all patients were on a ventilator. They required machines to help them breathe.

After treatment, as shown by the data below, 3/5 patients were able to breathe on their own within 2 weeks.

3/5 patients were also able to return home within 2 months.

Effects of Convalescent Plasma on COVID-19

While this study is very small, and difficult to draw robust statistical conclusions from, it does show some encouraging results.

Source: Treatment of 5 Critically Ill Patients With COVID-19 With Convalescent Plasma

Study 2: Convalescent Plasma in 19 Patients

A second study similarly looked at the effects of convalescent plasma in 19 patients in Wuhan.

Researchers in Wuhan found that just one dose of convalescent plasma was enough to reduce COVID-19 symptoms.

Researchers found evidence of lower average inflammation in patients after they received plasma therapy.

Covalescent Plasma & Inflammation

Similarly, they also found evidence that patients were able to breathe better. Patients had more oxygen in their blood after receiving convalescent plasma.

 Covalescent Plasma & Blood Oxygen

CT scans of patients' lungs showed dramatic evidence of improvement.

In one of the patients, shown below, researchers found that most of the inflammation clearly evident prior to therapy (top slide) disappeared after they received plasma therapy.

Effect of convalescent plasma on the lungs

Effect of convalescent plasma on the lungs. A patient who had substantial evidence of infection (top slide) showed clear improvement after convalescent plasma therapy (Bottom slide).

Source:Effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in severe COVID-19 patients

Key Takeaways

These two studies paint a very encouraging picture for Convalescent Plasma. While they are too small to draw statistically significant conclusions, they are consistent with previous studies of convalescent plasma and our understanding of the immune system.

This will require further study to validate these findings given the very small sample sizes.

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