Convalescent Plasma Testing Pause

What is the pause in convalescent plasma COVID-19 antibody test results?

On top of the routine testing Lifeblood performs on all blood donations, convalescent plasma donations undergo special COVID-19 antibody testing which we can’t do at Lifeblood. This test is done at a separate, highly specialised and secure lab. That’s because it’s a very complicated test which takes a number of days to complete and uses live coronavirus.

This special lab is shutting down for routine safety-related maintenance from 7 December to 4 January. This means that convalescent plasma donations given on or after 19 November in Perth or 21 November in the rest of the country won’t have their COVID-19 testing completed until after 4 January. 

What does this mean for me?

If you donated convalescent plasma on or after 19 November for Perth or 21 December for the other states and territories you won’t have your COVID-19 antibody results until your samples are tested in January 2021.

Even so, we encourage you to keep donating! We will store your donation and it will be tested as soon as it can be. If your COVID-19 antibodies aren’t high enough for your plasma to be used for COVID-19 treatment trials, it will still be used for patients in need. No matter what, your donation is still vital.

We’ll contact you with your result as soon as it’s available if:

  • You are a new convalescent plasma donor and you haven’t been tested before
  • You have donated previously and there is a significant change in your results

There aren’t many COVID patients in Australian hospitals now, so what are you doing with all the convalescent plasma?

It is wonderful that Australia has controlled COVID-19 so effectively. This also means that only a small number of Australian patients have needed convalescent plasma donations so far. At Lifeblood we’re building up a stock of plasma for direct transfusion in case there are further outbreaks so that we can provide plasma quickly to patients if it’s needed. 

We’re also continuing to send donations to CSL Behring, who are manufacturing them into COVID-19 Immunoglobulin (a concentrated form of COVID-19 antibodies) to use in trials. 

Do we know if convalescent plasma works yet?

We don’t know for sure yet, but we should soon. Internationally, countries such as the UK have recruited thousands of donors and patients, and it’s likely that there will be definitive answer on the effectiveness of convalescent plasma as a treatment by early 2021.

From what we know we know so far, convalescent plasma may work better if it’s given to patients early in their illness and if the COVID-19 antibody levels in the treatment are very high. When the data from the clinical trials are available, we may need to change our eligibility criteria for convalescent plasma donors to require a higher antibody level. If that happens, we’ll let all our convalescent plasma donors know. 

No matter what the result, because your donations have been processed in the same way as usual donations, they will still be used to help patients in need. 

So, as a convalescent plasma donor or a regular donor, we want to say thank you for your generous gift and encourage you to keep donating if you can.