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The ‘best’ plasma

Red blood cells
(Source: Pixabay)

One promising treatment for severe cases of COVID-19 is antibody therapy, given through infusion of convalescent plasma from the blood of people who have recovered. Although research into its effectiveness rate is somewhat mixed to date, data from small clinical trials as well as a national program suggest that convalescent plasma may help to lessen the severity and/ or shorten the duration of the illness.

But with wide variations in the symptoms and course of COVID-19 as the norm, which patients can produce blood plasma donations that contain antibodies of the highest quantity and quality?

Johns Hopkins researchers recently looked into that question by studying the plasma of a group of 126 adults who had recovered from the virus. They analyzed the plasma of each participant for its ability to neutralize the SARS-CoV-2 virus in cell cultures, and used commercially available tests to measure antibody levels.

They found that the strongest antibody response came from older men who had been hospitalized with COVID-19. They theorized that, because being older and being male are both associated with having more severe symptoms, the severity of the virus may be the key to creating the most effective antibodies to it.

“We propose that sex, age, and severity of disease should be used to guide the selection of donors for convalescent plasma transfer studies, because we found that these were significant patient characteristics that not only predicted the amount of antibody but the quality of that antibody,” said Professor Sabra Klein of Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health.

She added that while further research is necessary to verify these findings, she called it a “roadmap” for identifying those who may be ideal blood plasma donors to help others battle COVID-19.

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