Recovered From Covid-19? Your Blood Plasma Could Treat Other Patients – Here's How

The NHS is looking for donors to help treat those struggling with coronavirus symptoms. Here's how the process works.

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If you’ve recovered from coronavirus, your blood could provide a key ingredient that may help treat others who are critically ill with Covid-19.

Researchers working with NHS Blood and Transplant are asking people who’ve had the virus, and are now healthy, to donate blood plasma as part of a clinical trial to find an effective treatment for those worst affected by symptoms.

You might be able to help if you’ve had a positive test result for Covid-19, or if you’ve had clear symptoms but no test.

So, how can your blood plasma help others?

We’ve heard a lot about antibody tests for coronavirus, which are being developed. The detection of antibodies in blood – through a simple finger prick test – signifies that a person has had the virus and their body has developed an immune response to it.

Now, researchers want to see if those same antibodies could provide a treatment for people unable to develop their own immune response.

Antibodies are contained within blood plasma – a yellowish liquid that makes up about half your blood volume. “Convalescent plasma” refers to the antibody-rich plasma of someone who has recovered from a virus.

The first donations of convalescent plasma have been collected and the transfusions will follow later this month. The trials will investigate whether these transfusions improve a patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival.

Plasma can also be collected and frozen ahead of any second wave of Covid-19.

How does donation work?

Plasma donation requires participants to undergo a process called apheresis, which is not the same as standard blood donation.

During apheresis, a donor’s blood is removed from their arm through tubing. This then travels through a cell separator, which separates plasma from the blood. The remaining blood then flows back into the patient through tubing. The process takes around 45 minutes.

NHS Blood and Transplant has been contacting potential convalescent plasma donors directly, using recovered patient data. But you can also help by registering to donate plasma online.

Who can help?

The NHS will be taking plasma donations from participants no sooner than 28 days after recovery. Not everyone will be able to donate and researchers are looking for people who meet the following eligibility criteria:

You must:

  • be between 17 and 66 years old

  • weigh between 50kg and 158kg

  • not be pregnant, or had a baby, miscarriage or termination within six months

  • not have an existing or previous heart condition

  • not have had a transfusion since 1st January 1980

  • live close enough to donate at one of the 23 main donor centres – listed online.

Once you’ve registered your interest online, the NHS will contact you directly over the coming weeks if you’ve been selected as a donor.