Studies of Convalescent Plasma to Prevent and Treat COVID-19 Disease

COVID-19 Response, Infectious Disease Control

COVID-19 disease is caused by Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), a new virus that emerged in late 2019 and caused a global pandemic.  For most people, infection results in mild illness that might include cough or fever. Some people have more severe disease and need to be hospitalized because of breathing problems. Native American populations in the Southwest US have experienced some of the highest rates of COVID-19 disease in the country.

When the pandemic began, there were no licensed vaccines or therapies for prevention or treatment of COVID-19 disease. One possible option was to use plasma – the part of the blood that contains antibodies or germ-fighters – donated by people who have recovered from COVID-19 disease (called convalescent plasma). The antibodies that these individuals made to fight SARS-CoV-2 might be able to help prevent or treat COVID-19 disease in others. A key advantage to convalescent plasma is that it is available immediately and can be used while drugs and vaccines are being developed.

The Center for American Indian Health participated in two randomized, placebo-controlled trials conducted at many sites around the US to evaluate: 1) whether convalescent plasma given to adults exposed to the virus will prevent them from developing COVID-19 disease, and 2) whether convalescent plasma given to adults with mild COVID-19 disease will prevent them from needing to be hospitalized. Participants in both trials were randomized to receive either convalescent plasma or placebo and were followed for 3 months. The trials are still ongoing at other sites.

The results of these studies will allow us to determine if convalescent plasma can provide protection against infection and disease for adults exposed to the virus and can be used for treatment to prevent COVID-19 disease progression for adults infected with the virus. If convalescent plasma is found to be safe and effective it could be recommended for use in the current pandemic in the US and around the world.

For more information about convalescent plasma and the two trials:

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