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Convalescent Plasma and COVID-19: Early Studies and Findings

September 25, 2020

It’s officially been over half a year since the world went into lockdown and COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic. A lot has happened since then, and we’ve all had to adapt to the social distancing, mask-wearing, and sanitation practices that are required during this unprecedented time. We’ve also learned a lot more about the nature of this novel coronavirus, but with that said, we’re still a long way away from finding a vaccine. To date, convalescent plasma remains at the forefront of potential treatment options that can be made readily available.

In today’s blog, we’ll be unpacking what early convalescent plasma studies have revealed about its efficacy against COVID-19.

What Is Convalescent Plasma?

Convalescent plasma is the term used for plasma, the yellow, protein-rich component of blood, that is collected from an individual who has recovered from a virus. It is a treatment method that has been used during epidemics for more than 110 years, and the scientific community has been exploring the viability of it since the emergence of COVID-19.

The idea behind convalescent plasma therapy as a potential treatment for COVID-19 is that individuals who have recovered from the virus now have an acquired immunity to it due to the presence of virus-specific antibodies in their plasma. These antibodies are specifically designed to fight the pathogen, and when they are transferred from recovered patients to sick patients, they provide them with passive immunity.

Emerging Evidence of Convalescent Plasma Efficacy for COVID-19

During the early days of the pandemic, a small study in China revealed that five critically ill COVID-19 patients who were treated with convalescent plasma all recovered after receiving treatment. Although no conclusive evidence could be drawn from this study, it was an early sign of hope, and since then numerous larger studies have been conducted.

One such study that has shown even more promise is Houston Methodist’s ongoing study of 350 patients that have been treated with convalescent plasma. This study tracked critically ill COVID-19 patients who were admitted to Houston Methodist’s system of eight hospitals over a period of 28 days from March 28th to July 6th. It measured the medical effectiveness of transfusing severely ill COVID-19 patients with convalescent plasma by comparing them to a similar group of COVID-19 patients who did not receive treatment. 

The study found that therapies administered within 72 hours of hospitalization provided the most effective results and reduced mortality rates. Patients treated with convalescent plasma early in their illness were more likely to survive and recover than patients who did not receive treatments.

A Cautiously Optimistic Outlook

There are dozens of studies similar to the Houston Methodist study taking place worldwide, and Canadian researchers are leading the world’s largest convalescent plasma therapy trial for COVID-19, which involves more than 1,000 patients. While there is emerging evidence that convalescent plasma is a safe and effective treatment for COVID-19, it will take a while to generate sufficient data to confirm these findings. With that said, in due time results from prospective and well-controlled randomized trials will provide us with the answers we need.

At Canadian Plasma Resources, we’ve joined forces with world-leading plasma companies to help manufacture a potential treatment for COVID-19 and contribute to clinical trials that will help determine the efficacy of convalescent plasma. To learn more about how your plasma can potentially help COVID-19 patients, visit the COVID-19 program page on our website.