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American Red Cross will soon offer antibody testing to increase number of eligible convalescent plasma donors

Posted at 3:35 PM, Apr 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-28 17:07:22-04

The American Red Cross announced Thursday the non-profit will offer antibody testing starting next week to those who believe they may have had COVID-19 in the past and want to donate convalescent plasma.

“Antibody testing is much faster to perform than a genetic test, so by being able to perform more tests on more patients we can more quickly determine which patients are infected with the virus and that lets us put measures in place to help them,” Walter E. Kelley, DO, FCAP, American Red Cross Medical Director, said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced a new initiative in March to collect convalescent plasma from those who have recovered from COVID-19 in an effort to help those who are suffering.

“We have been telling people please don’t register unless you have your original test results. Now we no longer need to say that,” Kelley said.

Despite thousands of donors answering the call, the Red Cross said less than 10 percent meet the FDA requirements to donate. To see the requirements, click here.

“The Red Cross is working with our partner, Creative Testing Solutions (CTS), to implement this test for convalescent plasma donors in the near future. This automated test has the potential for a high throughput, enabling the collection of convalescent plasma from the many donors who do not currently have a confirmed positive COVID-19 diagnosis, and need an antibody test to confirm their eligibility to participate in the convalescent plasma program,” the Red Cross said in a statement.

Related: ARUP Laboratories begin COVID-19 antibody testing in Utah

The added testing could ensure patients who receive a plasma transfusion, do so from someone with the covid-19 antibodies, Dr. Daanish Hoda, Intermountain Health Care Hematologic Medical Director, said.

“Not everybody forms antibodies, so you could potentially collect plasma from a donor that was asymptomatic for 28 days, but maybe they didn’t form antibodies. So, we could give plasma to somebody that maybe doesn’t have the Covid antibody present,” he said.

This will also assist with research, Hoda said.

“We don’t really have a huge amount of data that shows that’s completely beneficial number one and we don’t know which patients it is beneficial for,” he said.

Related: Testing trends: 5% positive is great, but 5% false positive is not

Hundreds and then eventually thousands of antibody tests will be done nationally through the Red Cross, Kelley said.

“Throughout the next week, we will be increasing the amount of this testing that is being done, but we will be doing this in a very thoughtful way to try to use that resource in the most effective way,” he said.

These tests have taken tremendous work to be created and to implement the tests in a way that makes sense, Kelley said.

“So many laboratory professionals, here in Utah and throughout the world have, contributed so much to the care of these sick patients,” Kelley said. He hopes people will remember to thank those professionals during laboratory professionals week.

For more information on the Red Cross’ efforts to collect convalescent plasma donations, click here.