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A Look Inside Terumo BCT's Impact on Convalescent Plasma for COVID-19

6/9/2020
What is convalescent plasma? And is it effective in fighting COVID-19?
  • ​​​Convalescent plasma may help those suffering from COVID-19
  • If you've tested positive for COVID-19 and recovered, you may be able to donate
  • Convalescent plasma is collected using existing processes and technology, including Terumo BCT's Trima Accel® Automated Blood Collection System​

LAKEWOOD, COLO. – Paul Skach had no idea he was a wanted man.

The Denver, Colorado resident tested positive for COVID-19, fought it and recovered. Now, he's amazed to learn his plasma is in high demand. That's because his plasma contains antibodies from fighting COVID-19 that can help others.

The plasma from those who have tested positive for a virus like COVID-19, and then recovered, is called "convalescent plasma." And it has the potential be a lifesaver.

Each donation can potentially help multiple people. "When I heard that, I was like 'holy smokes, done,'" says Skach. He immediately looked for how he could donate.

How convalescent plasma works
People who have recovered from a virus like COVID-19 have antibodies to the disease in their blood. Through a simple blood transfusion process, those same antibodies can be shared with others who have the virus so they, too, can better fight the disease.

Dr._Armitage_(USE).jpg"The antibodies are like little guided missiles that target the virus and set up neutralization and removal of the virus," explains Dr. John Armitage, MD, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Blood Institute. "The person who's recovered has this great arsenal of these proteins, because they've won, they've destroyed all the targets. And you're borrowing that immunologic strength for somebody who is not in a position to put up as good a fight." In the case of COVID-19, this often means they're "critically ill and probably on a ventilator."

Not everyone is eligible to donate convalescent plasma, and specific guidelines may vary by institution. Generally speaking, though, the potential donor must have tested positive for COVID-19, then been free of symptoms for a set period of time — most often this is 14 to 28 days — and, finally, tested negative for the virus.

For more specific information, the International Society of Blood Transfusion (ISBT) has established a document library, as have the AABB and other institutions. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has also issued guidance on the administration and study of investigational convalescent plasma collected from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19; so has the European Commission.

An established process
As a treatment, convalescent plasma has been around for over a century. It's been used during outbreaks of infectious disease, including the 1918 flu, as well as H1N1, previous coronavirus outbreaks (SARS and MERS) and Ebola.

We know for many other viruses that collecting plasma from recovered patients has been very useful in some diseases in which there is no specific treatment. This is where we stand with COVID.                    

                                                                              -Dr. Zeyd Merenkov, MD, FCAP, FASCP, the immediate past Division                                                                                             Head and now Senior Consultant at Hamad Medical Corp., Qatar

"Since at this point we have no effective antiviral or other treatment for the disease, the idea that the patient's own immune response, the antibodies, might be protective, is attractive," says Dr. Merenkov. Dr. Armitage agrees.

Right now there are so few options that this has really taken a front and center role. Even though it has ​not been proven to be effective, when other options are exhausted, it has been shown to be safe.

                                                                             ​-Dr. John Armitage, MD, president and CEO of the Oklahoma Blood Institute

And explaining it more from a personal perspective, Dr. Armitage says it passes what he calls the grandma test. "Would I recommend this for somebody's grandma? Absolutely. If I had a grandma and she was in the ICU and this was a choice for her, I'd be like, 'Sure, grandma, take it.'"

How is the plasma collected?
Plasma is one of the main components of blood, along with platelets, red blood cells and white blood cells. Antibodies are contained in the plasma. During the collection process, some of the donor's plasma is separated from these other components using a device such as Terumo BCT's Trima Accel.

The Trima Accel system was first launched in 1997. It has kept up with technology and been updated multiple times, and today it is used broadly by blood centers and hospitals in more than 120 countries worldwide. That's a big advantage, because it's a system that blood collection personnel are already familiar with. That means, for many facilities worldwide, the process of collecting convalescent plasma is already in place.

Zeyd - headshot.jpgAnd as Dr. Merenkov explains, that process can be quick. In his experience, a list is provided of potential donors who are at least two weeks post-recovery. They are thoroughly screened, which includes dozens of questions as well as a physical exam. Finally, "The only donors who come to the Trima Accel machine are those who have passed those criteria. This means we can rapidly release the [plasma] components to those hospitals in need."

The final step, then, is matching the plasma with the patient. "When the plasma is ready, we notify the infectious disease people (at the hospital)," he continues. "They triage and determine to which patients it is given."

And for the donor? As Denver's Paul Skach describes it, the process is nearly identical to that of giving blood. "They basically take blood out and put it back in. They just remove the plasma. It's not that difficult."

What can you do to help?  
Blood donations are always needed. And if you've tested positive for COVID-19 and have recovered, your plasma could be of tremendous value.

If you know someone who has recovered after testing positive, tell them to contact their local blood center. Many people are looking for ways to help, and donating convalescent plasma — if they qualify — can have a significant impact.

"At minimum, go find out if you can donate," says Skach. "I'm trying to think of any downsides as to why you wouldn't want to do this — and I can't think of one."

Dr. Armitage agrees. "This is a way that you can share your good health. You've got something that's highly desirable to help somebody. What better way to defeat the virus than to help somebody else get to your same position of good fortune?"

"There are not many biological things that disrupt our entire universe the way this little pest has. So, you know, let's fight back."

For information about donating convalescent plasma, contact your local blood center or hospital.

About Convalescent Plasma
Blood Unites Us Shirt - convalescent plasma donation shirt.jpgI​n the U.S., the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has released guidance for Investigational COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma outlining donor and patient qualifications as well as how to obtain authorization.

Physicians or hospitals who would like to provide convalescent plasma to patients should work with local blood collection establishments. Collection of convalescent plasma should comply with local regulatory requirements for donor qualification and blood product testing.

About Trima Accel
The Trima Accel® Automated Blood Collection System is used to collect combinations of red blood cells, platelets and plasma by automated component collection. Continuous flow technology is used to separate the whole blood into its major components. The specific components collected are determined by the center's prioritization of procedures based on customer needs and the donor's profile. TERUMOBCT.com/trima

About Terumo BCT
Terumo BCT, a global leader in blood component, therapeutic apheresis and cellular therapy technologies, is the only company with the unique combination of apheresis collections, manual and automated whole blood processing, and pathogen reduction ​technologies. We believe in the potential of blood and cells to do even more for patients than they do today. This belief inspires our innovation and strengthens our collaboration with customers. TERUMOBCT.com

 

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