Convalescent plasma in the spotlight
The use of convalescent plasma to treat virus outbreaks predates the Covid-19 pandemic, but in those cases, it had been used in connection with outbreaks specific to particular regions, such as those of Ebola and SARS. The use of convalescent plasma to treat the coronavirus marks the first time this therapy comes into use on a global scale. In this case, the plasma is collected from individuals who have recovered from a Covid-19 infection and have developed an immunity to the virus. Their plasma contains antibodies that are able to specifically target this particular pathogen.
Not long after the pandemic started, convalescent plasma became available in Switzerland for use in clinical studies or as an experimental therapy for individuals. Swiss Transfusion SRC, working with groups made up of its own experts and those of the regional blood transfusion services, drew up a set of criteria for donated convalescent plasma, laying down requirements for both donor selection and the production process. The aim was to ensure the safety of both the donors and the blood products.
Clinical studies conducted in numerous countries throughout the world have been evaluating the efficacy and safety of convalescent plasma in the treatment of Covid-19 infections since the start of the pandemic. Swiss Transfusion SRC is one of the partners working within the “Support E” project at the European level. Within Switzerland itself, two studies acquired the planned number of study participants in 2020; other studies will follow. The data available thus far indicate that convalescent plasma is most effective when administered at an early stage of the infection, i.e., before a patient becomes critically ill.