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The key factors for selecting the best COVID-19 plasma donors

Many global health agencies are seeking to use convalescent blood plasma to help a infected person to fight the coronavirus, as Digital Journal’s Karen Graham has reported. In relation to this application of biological science, new research finds that those who suffered with more severe COVID-19 make the best donors for convalescent plasma therapy. This is because there are stronger antibody responses, from this patient population, to more severe disease. Furthermore, patients of a more advanced age and who are male provide the best form of plasma.

Convalescent plasma

As Digital Journal reported earlier, convalescent plasma is a form of infusion therapy based on plasma obtained from donors having recovered from an infection. The idea of the therapy is that blood plasma donated by a person who has suffered from an illness will be rich in antibodies (immunoglobulins) that can be used to fight specific infections (in this case the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus). Through this the objective is to help promote the infected individual to recover faster.

The plasma may also function as a prophylaxis to prevent COVID-19, although this research aim remains further from realization than the use of convalescent plasma as a therapy.

Age matters

The new finding that some individuals within the population, who have been infected with the coronavirus, may provide a better source of plasma than others has been drawn out from medical research. For this, scientists have examined the blood of 126 COVID-19 survivors. The analysis has shown high variability in the antibody levels between individuals, as well as the antibodies’ ability to neutralize the COVID-19-causing virus.

Those individuals who stood out were people of an older age and of male sex, and whom had suffered from a more severe form of the COVID-19 infection. These individuals have a richer source of the anti-spike protein antibodies capable of neutralizing the coronavirus.

As well as sourcing suitable plasma, it is important to assess the history of each donor. This is referred to as a ‘look back’, to make sure that the donor is not from an at risk group (in terms of potentially contracting a different virus of concern).

The new research has been published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. The research paper is titled “Sex, age, and hospitalization drive antibody responses in a COVID-19 convalescent plasma donor population.”

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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