The government pays blood bank Sanquin 10 million euros for collecting blood plasma from recovered corona patients. Sanquin wants to test this plasma as a medicine against corona disease.
What kind of medicine is it?
After a previous infection with the coronavirus, most people make antibodies. These antibodies protect against a new attack of the coronavirus. Antibodies are in the plasma of the blood. That is the part without red blood cells and platelets, but with proteins such as antibodies. The idea is to collect the blood plasma from these people and give it to people who are seriously ill from covid. This will help them fight the virus, the researchers hope.
The researchers also want to know whether the plasma can protect people against infection with the virus. Sanquin will collect plasma from 16,000 ex-corona patients. That should lead to 30,000 kilos of plasma with antibodies.
How well does the plasma drug against covid work?
We do not know yet. According to the Antibiotic Policy Working Group Foundation, there are only results from two small Chinese studies into this treatment. But a lot of work is being done on new research because there is good hope because it also worked in SARS and MERS before.
Blood bank Sanquin had already collected plasma from donors in March. This was given to covid patients in a study led by Erasmus MC in several hospitals. The results of this investigation are not yet known. Sanquin also participates in an alliance with the pharmaceutical industry to research plasma as a medicine. This research also has no results yet.
The first research results are expected this autumn. If the plasma drug does not work, the collected plasma is still usefully used, according to the press release from the Ministry of Health.
What are the risks?
To start with, Sanquin will call on blood donors who have had corona complaints. Sanquin checks whether they really have antibodies against corona, and then they can participate. Furthermore, people who, according to the GGD, are positive for corona will receive an invitation to donate plasma. This also brings the risks into the picture. Because that plasma can also contain viruses, such as corona, but also HIV, hepatitis or new, unknown viruses.
The blood bank does everything it can to prevent contamination via blood products, but it has not been possible to rule it out in the past. You can also get an immune response against other people’s plasma, which is why women were not allowed to be plasma donors before this crisis. Female plasma carries a greater risk of immune reactions. Thus, the plasma-based drug may also have side effects.
How can you donate plasma?
If you want to donate plasma yourself, you can report this to Sanquin. It is less stressful than donating blood because the red blood cells and red blood cells are returned to the body. Plasma can therefore be given more often than blood, even once every two weeks is possible.