Welsh Blood Service is working in partnership with Public Health Wales, Welsh Government, Cardiff and Vale University Health Board and Cardiff University on a project designed to help treat patients diagnosed with Covid-19 using convalescent plasma.
A selection of patients living in Wales who have been diagnosed with and recovered from Covid-19 are being invited by the Welsh Blood Service to donate their convalescent plasma via a blood donation.
The project will explore whether convalescent plasma transfusions can help benefit patients with Covid-19 in recovery.
At present, only recovered patients invited by Public Health Wales are able to take part in the project.
Questions and answers
What is convalescent plasma?
Plasma is in your blood, it is a clear, yellowish liquid that makes up about half of your blood volume and carries red and white blood cells and platelets around the body.
When someone recovers from a viral infection their plasma contains a specific protein, called an antibody; this is produced by the body’s immune system to fight the infection.
Convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich plasma of someone who has recovered from a viral infection, in this case COVID-19.
How does convalescent plasma treat COVID 19?
Blood donors that have had COVID-19 would have developed antibodies to the SARS-CoV-2 virus. Plasma, which contains these antibodies can be transfused to patients severely unwell with COVID-19. This plasma contains the antibodies necessary to help the patient fight the virus.
How do I donate convalescent plasma?
Currently only males who have had COVID – 19 diagnosed by a confirmatory blood test will be approached to donate blood for convalescent plasma. Public Health Wales are contacting these people on behalf of the Welsh Blood Service.
If you are receipt of a personal letter from Public Health Wales or a text message from the NHS click here
Why aren’t females able to donate convalescent plasma?
The Welsh Blood Service are currently only accepting males to donate convalescent plasma. This is because some female donors have antibodies which may cause transfusion reactions in patients. These antibodies are more common in women who have previously been pregnant, these are different to the antibodies that are produced in response to COVID-19. As the programme progresses we will be collecting and testing donations from females to assess whether they are suitable to donate convalescent plasma.
I haven’t been tested for COVID-19 can I still donate convalescent plasma?
At present the Welsh Blood Service are prioritising people who have a positive test result for COVID-19. As the programme progresses, we will be able to take donations from people who believe they have had COVID-19 but not had a confirmed test. We will test those donations for the antibodies which show they have had COVID-19.
How is the donation taken?
The Welsh Blood Service currently only collects convalescent plasma via the whole blood donation process. As the programme progresses we will be able to collect donations via a dedicated plasma donation (apheresis) process, this procedure will take around 45 minutes. The donation process most suitable for you will be discussed with you before any donation takes place.
Why do you collect plasma 28 days from resolution of symptoms?
Donors of convalescent plasma are asked to wait 28 days from resolution of symptoms to give time for antibody levels to rise before their first plasma donation.
How will I know whether I am eligible to donate?
There are circumstances that may prevent you from donating, some of these can be established by undertaking the eligibility quiz on our website – click here, while others will be discussed in follow up contact and at the point of donation.
What tests will you do on my blood?
All donations are tested for blood type, and for Hepatitis B, C, and E; HIV; HTLV; and Syphilis (mandatory tests).
In addition to mandatory tests, we will also measure your COVID-19 antibody levels.
When will I be informed of my test results?
You will be contacted and offered further advice if any of the mandatory tests react.
You will be informed of the results of your COVID-19 antibody test once these are available and this result will determine whether or not you are suitable to donate convalescent plasma.
Will donating plasma put me at risk of getting COVID-19 again?
Your immune system will quickly replace any antibodies we collect. Your immune system can quickly produce antibodies to viruses that it recognises.
We expect that antibody levels will fall naturally in all people some months after recovery from symptoms of COVID-19.
Why are you inviting individuals and not everyone?
Only individuals who have recovered fully from confirmed Covid-19 coronavirus are currently suitable to donate convalescent plasma.
When antibody testing for the virus that causes Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2) becomes readily available, it will be possible to allow people, who have recovered from the illness without being diagnosed, to donate.
How do you donate plasma?
The donation is collected through a regular blood donation. The plasma is then split from the blood donation in the laboratory.
These plasma donations can last up to two years as they are frozen following the donation.
I haven’t been invited to donate plasma but how can I help?
Only patients invited by the Welsh Blood Service are able to take part in the project at present, however every blood donation can be split into three parts: red cells, platelets and plasma.
Plasma can be frozen for up to two years and can be used to help treat patients who receive heavy burns.
What if I live outside Wales?
Please contact your nation’s blood service:
England – https://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/
Scotland – https://www.scotblood.co.uk/
Northern Ireland – https://nibts.hscni.net/