Plasma Donation and COVID-19 (2022)

Plasma Donation and COVID-19 (1)By Clare Knight, B.Sc.Reviewed by Sophia Coveney

Plasma donation is a specific form of blood donation whereby plasma, the clear liquid component of whole blood, is collected during donation through a process known as plasmapheresis. During plasmapheresis, an apheresis machine removes and separates the plasma from the whole blood. As plasma contains nutrients, proteins, and antibodies, it can be used to develop treatments for diseases. Plasma used for these purposes is called convalescent plasma.

Plasma Donation and COVID-19 (2)A bag of blood plasma. Image Credit: Pavel Kosolapov /

(Video) COVID-19 plasma donation: What you need to know

Convalescent plasma has been used in the prevention and treatment of infectious diseases for centuries. It is considered a form of ‘passive immunization’ as plasma collected from patients who have recovered from a previous infection and developed adaptive immunity, demonstrated by the presence of antigen-specific antibodies. Upon transfusion into another patient, the plasma can neutralize the disease pathogen, eventually eradicating it from blood circulation.

The COVID-19 pandemic revived interest in the use of plasma donation as a potential treatment for the disease, especially prior to the development of effective vaccines. Plasma therapies offer several advantages: large volumes can be collected from donors regularly, without impacting the donor’s hemoglobin levels as their red blood cells are reinfused during the donation process. Recruiting donors and transfusing donor plasma on a regional basis can offer the added value of providing specific, passive immunity against the local strain variations of the infectious agent.

Effectiveness of plasma therapy for other coronaviruses and similar infections

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, convalescent plasma has been successfully used to treat Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the avian influenza outbreak. In the case of SARS treatment, administration of convalescent plasma was associated with lower mortality and earlier discharge from hospital if given within 14 days of the onset of illness.

In the treatment of MERS, therapy was beneficial when the administered plasma had a higher concentration of MERS-specific antibodies. Given the clinical and virological similarities between these and COVID-19, it stands to reason that convalescent plasma was investigated as a promising treatment option for COVID-19.

(Video) Myths and Facts about Plasma Donation || COVID-19

Treating COVID-19 with donated plasma

One early pilot study conducted in China evaluated the impact of convalescent plasma in ten patients who had been hospitalized with severe COVID-19. The study found that clinical symptoms of COVID-19 were significantly reduced in all patients, with fever, breathlessness, cough, and chest pain especially improved. Inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein also appeared reduced after transfusion.

As in earlier studies, better results were observed in those who received plasma with higher antibody levels within 14 days of infection. Overall, the group showed a much-improved health status when compared to a recent historic control group. No serious adverse events were reported following transfusion in the plasma therapy group. The authors concluded that plasma therapy could offer a low-risk therapeutic treatment option but conceded that more rigorous, randomized controlled studies were needed.

Subsequently, several observational case studies were published and reported associations between convalescent plasma and reduced viral load, improvement in clinical symptoms and reduced mortality.

Randomized controlled trials of convalescent plasma therapy and COVID-19

What is a randomized controlled trial (RCT)?

An RCT is a type of experiment which aims to reduce bias in the interpretation of results by randomly assigning trial participants to one of two conditions: experimental or control. In the experiment condition (or arm), participants receive the intervention under study whilst the control arm receives either a conventional or placebo treatment.

(Video) Plasma donations for COVID-19 research

The two groups will then be followed up for a predetermined time to assess differences between them, either in outcome measurements or measurements of acceptability or safety. They are considered the ‘gold standard’ for determining the effectiveness of a given intervention, as they are the most rigorous method of determining a cause-effect relationship between an intervention and outcome.

The first RCT was conducted in China and randomized 103 participants to receive either plasma therapy or standard treatment. However, the trial was discontinued early as falling rates of new infections meant that the trial could not recruit any new participants after March 2020. Analysis of the clinical outcomes showed no significant differences in time to recovery or rates of mortality between the plasma therapy and control groups. However, preliminary subgroup analysis was suggestive of a clinical benefit for those with severe COVID-19. The study's early termination may have statistically underpowered the trial, and the authors suggested that larger trials should be conducted.

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The second RCT aimed to address this by recruiting over 400 patients to receive either standard care or convalescent plasma therapy. The trial was designed on the assumption that participants would not have high levels of virus-neutralizing antibodies when first recruited to the study. Upon receiving plasma therapy, the hypothesis was that antibody increases would be seen in the experimental group, leading to better clinical outcomes. However, high levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies were found in most participants prior to randomization. The study was discontinued after the researchers concluded that those in the experimental group would be unlikely to benefit from plasma therapy.

(Video) Blood, plasma donations needed as COVID-19 pandemic continues

Subsequently, an Indian study was able to recruit approximately 500 participants who were randomly allocated to receive plasma therapy or standard care and found there was no difference between the groups in progression to severe disease or mortality.

Plasma Donation and COVID-19 (3)Plasma donation. Image Credit: RUCHUDA BOONPLIEN /

Is convalescent plasma therapy ineffective in COVID-19?

Researchers have not dismissed the use of plasma therapy as a potential treatment of COVID-19, and several countries have obtained the regulatory approvals to include it as a therapy. Trials have proven methodologically difficult owing to the complexity of conducting research during the pandemic with complex patients.

Recent research as of February 2020 included plasma with COVID-19 antibody levels 6 to 10 times higher than the Indian study. Interim analysis of the data collected as part of this research indicated that receiving plasma with high antibody levels did significantly reduce mortality. Follow-up data from the same study identified that the mortality decreased significantly if delivered within an optimal 44-hour window post-hospitalization for COVID-19.

(Video) Plasma donation and how it's helping COVID-19 patients

In summary, there is not yet conclusive evidence of plasma therapy’s role in COVID-19, and it has been proved to be hard to undertake trials during the pandemic for methodologic reasons.


  • Agarwal, A., Mukherjee, A., Kumar, G., Chatterjee, P., Bhatnagar, T., Malhotra, P., & PLACID Trial Collaborators (2020). Convalescent plasma in the management of moderate covid-19 in adults in India: open label phase II multicentre randomised controlled trial (PLACID Trial). BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 371, m3939.
  • Cheng, Y., Wong, R., Soo, Y. O., Wong, W. S., Lee, C. K., Ng, M. H., Chan, P., Wong, K. C., Leung, C. B., & Cheng, G. (2005). Use of convalescent plasma therapy in SARS patients in Hong Kong. European journal of clinical microbiology & infectious diseases : official publication of the European Society of Clinical Microbiology, 24(1), 44–46.
  • Duan, K., Liu, B., Li, C., Zhang, H., Yu, T., Qu, J., Zhou, M., Chen, L., Meng, S., Hu, Y., Peng, C., Yuan, M., Huang, J., Wang, Z., Yu, J., Gao, X., Wang, D., Yu, X., Li, L., Zhang, J., … Yang, X. (2020). Effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in severe COVID-19 patients. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 117(17), 9490–9496.
  • Li, L., Zhang, W., Hu, Y., Tong, X., Zheng, S., Yang, J., Kong, Y., Ren, L., Wei, Q., Mei, H., Hu, C., Tao, C., Yang, R., Wang, J., Yu, Y., Guo, Y., Wu, X., Xu, Z., Zeng, L., Xiong, N., … Liu, Z. (2020). Effect of Convalescent Plasma Therapy on Time to Clinical Improvement in Patients With Severe and Life-threatening COVID-19: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA, 324(5), 460–470.
  • Marano, G., Vaglio, S., Pupella, S., Facco, G., Catalano, L., Liumbruno, G. M., & Grazzini, G. (2016). Convalescent plasma: new evidence for an old therapeutic tool?. Blood transfusion = Trasfusione del sangue, 14(2), 152–157.
  • Salazar, E., Christensen, P.A., Graviss, E.A., Nguyen, D.T., Castillo, B., Chen, J., Lopez, B.V., Eagar, T.N., Yi, X., Zhao, P., Rogers, J., Shehabeldin, A., Joseph, D., Masud, F., Leveque, C., Olsen, R.J., Bernard, D.W., Gollihar, J., Musser, J.M. (2021). Significantly decreased mortality in a large cohort of coronavirus disease 2019 (covid-19) patients transfused early with convalescent plasma containing high-titer anti-severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) spike protein IgG. Am J Pathol, 191(1):90-107. doi: 10.1016/j.ajpath.2020.10.008.

Further Reading

  • All Coronavirus Disease COVID-19 Content
  • The COVID-19 Pandemic: What have the experts learned?
  • What Mutations of SARS-CoV-2 are Causing Concern?
  • What Role has Social Media Played in COVID-19?
  • What has COVID-19 taught us About Infectious Diseases?



How long after having Covid Can you give blood? ›

How long after having Covid-19 do I need to wait before donating? If you have had symptoms of Coronavirus you must wait 28 days from their resolution before you can donate. If you have tested positive but not had any symptoms, you must instead wait 28 days from the date of your last positive test.

Does donating plasma save lives? ›

Patients who can benefit from plasma donations include burn injury survivors and hemophiliacs, as well as those with rare and/or chronic conditions, and those with immune deficiency.

Is donating plasma good for you? ›

Donating plasma doesn't only make you more aware of your diet. It may also have a positive impact on your physical health. One health benefit of regular plasma donation is the potential reduction of bad cholesterol levels and the increase of good cholesterol, especially in women.

Does it take more or less time to donate plasma than it does to donate whole blood? ›

This means that you can donate plasma twice within a seven-day period, you'll just need to allow for 1-day in-between visits. On the other hand, whole blood donors need to wait 56 days between appointments since other blood components—especially red cells—don't replenish quite as quickly as plasma.

Do they test for STD when donating blood? ›

What Screening Is Done on Your Blood? After you have donated, your blood will be tested for syphilis, HIV (the virus that causes AIDS), hepatitis, and HTLV (human T-lymphotropic virus), which can cause a blood or nerve disease.

Can Covid be transmitted through blood transfusion? ›

Respiratory viruses generally aren't transmitted via blood transfusion, and there have been no reported cases worldwide of SARS-CoV-2 or any other coronavirus being passed from donor to recipient, the FDA said.

Are there any cons to donating plasma? ›

The Cons of Donating Plasma

Fatigue, occasional nausea. Don't expect to do anything strenuous for the rest of the day.

Is it healthy to donate plasma every week? ›

If you choose the American Red Cross, you can donate plasma once every 28 days, or approximately 13 times a year. However, the majority of private plasma donation companies allow you to donate plasma more frequently, such as multiple times a week, which is neither healthy nor safe.

Do you burn calories donating plasma? ›

For average sized person: Each donation burns roughly 450 calories to replace the plasma. Donating 2 times per week x 52 weeks per year = 46,800 calories per year. There is roughly 3000 calories in 1 pound of fat.

What happens if you donate plasma 3 times a week? ›

FALSE – It is healthy to donate once or twice each week, if there is a 48-hour period between each donation. Plasma is 90% water and frequent donation will not harm you. It can lead to side effects such as dizziness and fatigue, but staying hydrated can help avoid these.

Is donating plasma good for weight loss? ›

No, blood donation won't become a weight loss fad any time soon. However, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have found that you can lose up to 650 calories per pint of blood donated.

How fast does your body replace plasma? ›

Your body will replace the blood volume (plasma) within 48 hours. It will take four to eight weeks for your body to completely replace the red blood cells you donated. The average adult has eight to 12 pints of blood.

What are the long term effects of donating plasma? ›

For donors who donate frequently or for an extended amount of time, there is a risk for depleting immunoglobulin levels, which can lower the ability to fight off infections. Be sure to check in with your healthcare provider to monitor your immunoglobulin levels if you are a frequent plasma donor.

How can I speed up donating plasma? ›

Being well-hydrated is also the best way to be efficient with your time. Since plasma is mostly water, drinking the recommended amount of water can help make the donation process go faster.
Other protein-rich foods include:
  1. Beans.
  2. Shrimp.
  3. Eggs.
  4. Yogurt.
  5. Nuts, nut butters, and seeds.
6 Jul 2021

What is the rarest blood type? ›

What's the rarest blood type? AB negative is the rarest of the eight main blood types - just 1% of our donors have it. Despite being rare, demand for AB negative blood is low and we don't struggle to find donors with AB negative blood. However, some blood types are both rare and in demand.

What medications disqualify you from donating plasma? ›

  • Accutane.
  • Antibiotics *Donors who are taking antibiotics are eligible to donate 24 hours after their last dose.
  • Anti-Platelet Medications.
  • Avodart.
  • Blood thinners (such as Coumadin, Heparin, Lovenox, Warfarin)
  • Bovine insulin.
  • Hepatitis B Immune Globulin.
  • Human-derived growth hormones.

What viruses do they test for when donating plasma? ›

As a safety measure, all donated plasma goes through two tests: a nucleic acid test and a viral marker test. These tests scan for infectious diseases (such as hepatitis B, hepatitis C, HIV) to verify that your plasma is safe to be turned into medicine.

What can I donate to make money? ›

You'll get some fast cash, and, in some cases, your assets are renewable.
  • Donate Plasma. One of the easiest ways to make some cash regularly from your body is to donate plasma. ...
  • Sell Your Hair. There is actually a market for human hair. ...
  • Donate Bone Marrow. ...
  • Donate Sperm. ...
  • Donate Eggs. ...
  • Paid Testing. ...
  • Join a Focus group.
14 Sept 2022

What are some reasons you can't donate blood? ›

Who cannot donate blood?
  • Having a fever (above 99.5°F) or an acute infection at the time of donation, or feeling unwell, having a cold, flu, or trouble breathing.
  • Pregnancy.
  • High blood pressure reading (top number above 180, or bottom number above 100)
14 Jan 2022

Can SARS-CoV-2 detect in blood? ›

SARS-CoV-2 can be detected in urine, blood, anal swabs, and oropharyngeal swabs specimens.

When is convalescent plasma given? ›

The current criteria for convalescent plasma donation are: You must meet all routine blood donor criteria. You need to have had a positive test for COVID-19. You need to have recovered from COVID-19, with NO symptoms for at least 28 days*

How long should I wait to get vaccine after having Covid NHS? ›

How long do I have to wait after having COVID to get my vaccination? Adults can have the vaccine 28 days after a positive test for COVID-19 or 28 days after symptoms started, whichever is earlier. This is in line with Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) guidance.

Can I donate blood after Covid Australia? ›

Currently, you may donate blood when you have completed all required public health follow up and 7 days after you've made a full recovery from COVID-19. The 7 days begins on the first day once you are symptom-free.

Can you donate blood after Covid vaccine Canada? ›

Consistent with our eligibility criteria for other non-live vaccines, Canadian Blood Services accepts donations from otherwise eligible donors who have received a Health Canada-authorized COVID-19 vaccine, with no required deferral period following vaccination.

Can I donate blood after Covid vaccine Australia? ›

Yes, but you need to wait at least three days after each COVID-19 vaccination to make sure you have had no side effects and are feeling healthy and well on the day of donation. If you have any side effects from the vaccine, you should not donate until you have recovered.

Which vaccine is better for Covid? ›

There are three COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in the U.S. The Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines are all highly effective in protecting you from the virus that causes COVID-19. The CDC says there's a preference for the mRNA (Pfizer and Moderna) COVID-19 vaccines over the Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

How long are you protected after having Covid? ›

Research has not yet shown how long you are protected from getting COVID-19 again after you recover from COVID-19. Vaccination helps protect you even if you've already had COVID-19.

How long is Covid contagious for? ›

But people who do pick up the virus start feeling sick 2 to 14 days after getting exposed to COVID-19. Since you're contagious even before feeling sick, you can be infectious as soon as the day after you're exposed to the virus. And it can take up to 12 days.

Do I need to wear a mask to donate blood? ›

Although no longer required, please consider wearing a face covering to protect others. Face masks are available if you would like to wear one. Just ask one of our staff. Can I donate if I think I've had coronavirus?

Can you donate blood if you vape? ›

Although smoking cigarettes, vaping, and using cannabis will not disqualify a person from donating blood, they should refrain from smoking for at least 2 hours before and after donating blood. A person may feel lightheaded or weak after giving blood, and smoking can exacerbate these symptoms.

Can you donate blood if you smoke? ›

Smoking cigarettes in and of itself doesn't disqualify you from donating blood. If you smoke and you want to donate blood, plan to refrain from smoking on the day of your appointment — both before your appointment and for three hours afterward. Smoking before your appointment can lead to an increase in blood pressure.

What is the difference between giving whole blood or plasma? ›

Donating plasma is a little different from donating whole blood. When you donate whole blood, it goes straight into a collection bag and is later separated in a lab. When you donate plasma, the blood that's drawn from your arm goes through a special machine to separate the different parts of your blood.

Who can not donate blood? ›

You cannot donate if you have a cold, flu, sore throat, cold sore, stomach bug or any other infection. If you have recently had a tattoo or body piercing you cannot donate for 6 months from the date of the procedure.

Can diabetics donate blood? ›

As long as your diabetes is well-managed and under control, you can donate blood. Having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes does not make a difference.

How long after the shingles vaccine can you donate blood? ›

Wait 4 weeks after immunizations for German Measles (Rubella), MMR (Measles, Mumps and Rubella), Chicken Pox and Zostavax, the live shingles vaccine. Wait 2 weeks after immunizations for Red Measles (Rubeola), Mumps, Polio (by mouth), and Yellow Fever vaccine.

How long do Covid vaccine side effects last? ›

Common side effects include pain at the injection site, fever, body aches and headaches. These reactions are frequent (and indicate that your body is making an immune response to the vaccine) and should go away within 1-2 days, with the exception that swollen lymph nodes may persist up to about 10 days.

Can I drive after donating blood? ›

Resume driving only when fully recovered or call for help. Drink plenty of fluids such as water or juice throughout the rest of your day after donating, and avoid alcoholic beverages which are dehydrating. Avoid strenuous activity for six to eight hours after donating.


1. How blood plasma donations may be saving some people suffering from COVID-19 | Nightline
(ABC News)
2. COVID-19 vaccine affecting plasma donations
(FOX5 Las Vegas)
3. COVID-19 | Donate Blood Plasma and Help Save Lives
(U.S. Department of Health and Human Services)
4. COVID-19 Plasma Donation
(Saint Joseph Mercy Health System)
5. After COVID-19 Recovery, 300 Tablighi Jamaat Members Sign Up To Donate Plasma
6. COVID-19 survivors urged to donate plasma

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