coronavirus pandemic

Local Program Calls For COVID-19 Plasma Donors

More plasma donors are needed to help build the donor database, but not every recovered COVID-19 patient may qualify

NBCUniversal, Inc.

One investigational treatment being explored for COVID-19 involves the use of convalescent plasma collected from recovered COVID-19 patients.

The FDA published donor criteria, which include people who've been symptom-free for 14 days and test negative through one or more nasal swabs.

Hunter Howard of Dallas thought he met the criteria.

The 50-year-old Howard was one of the first North Texans to get swabbed, test positive and then slowly recover from COVID-19.

He says the next step of his journey was becoming a plasma donor.

"The people who are in the ICU right now. If I could just donate my plasma to them and help get them out of that, I would be happy to do so," said Howard.

To his surprise, he didn't qualify.

Even though it had been 20 days since he was last symptomatic, another nasal swab detected the virus was still in his body.

His case is a good example of what researchers are still learning about the virus.

Even with FDA-published donor guidance, some of the area's top pathologists say the pool of plasma candidates isn't as big as one might think.

Associate Professor of Pathology Dr. Nicole De Simone is part of the UT Southwestern's new COVID-19 plasma donation program.

She says they hope the program can generate concrete data on how effective plasma transfusions are as a therapy for COVID-19.

However, she notes, not everyone who gets better from COVID-19 will immediately qualify.

For example, women who've been pregnant will need additional testing.

Anti-HLA antibodies produced in the body after pregnancy usually have no effect on the woman or on her subsequent pregnancies.

However, if present in blood given to a person, those antibodies can be life-threatening.

New COVID-19 antibody testing can help widen the pool of candidates, but it's still not widely available and even then, those who think they can donate, may fall into strict criteria.

UT Southwestern is creating a plasma donor database for the entire DFW area.

The prospect of helping others is why Howard says he'll try to donate in a few weeks.

Contact Us