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Q: What is convalescent plasma? How does it help patients with coronavirus, and how can I donate?

A: Convalescent plasma is drawn from a blood donor who has recovered from an infection. Plasma is the liquid part of the blood. Convalescent plasma drawn from a donor recovered from coronavirus may contain antibodies to that infection.

Health-care providers evaluate patients with coronavirus and determine whether they meet criteria to receive a convalescent plasma transfusion. These patients are currently ill and have often not had the opportunity to make their own antibodies to fight coronavirus. The antibodies in the convalescent plasma transfusion help the patient fight the virus until the patient's body is able to respond on its own.

Large-scale studies involving patients across the country are underway to examine the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma treatment for coronavirus. Preliminary results show increased survival and decreased oxygen requirements for patients receiving convalescent plasma who are not yet intubated. Convalescent plasma treatment has been used since the early 1900s to treat various infections.

If you believe you have had coronavirus and would like to donate convalescent plasma, visit https://www.bloodassurance.org/covidplasma. You can enter your contact information, and you will receive instructions on next steps. In order to donate, you must either have a history of a positive nasopharyngeal swab test and be symptom free for 14 days, or you must provide a sample so that Blood Assurance can test you for antibodies to coronavirus.

Due to the high false-positive rate of some tests, Blood Assurance does not accept outside antibody test results, and only donors who meet certain criteria may be asked to submit a sample for testing.

— Elizabeth Culler, M.D., is medical director of Blood Assurance and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

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Contributed Photo / Dr. Elizabeth Culler
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