Red Cross Speeds Up Process to Potentially Aid COVID Patients

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. – The American Red Cross is speeding up the process of getting donations that may help COVID-19 patients.

Convalescent plasma contains COVID-19 antibodies from the blood of someone who has had and recovered from the virus. It’s also a possible treatment recently discovered and accepted by the FDA for those currently fighting the virus.

“We have moved from an investigational drug designation to the EUA, which is the emergency use authorization,” Red Cross Medical Director Marla Troughton said.

The Emergency Use Authorization allows for places like the Red Cross to use donated blood and test it for those antibodies.

Until today, a donor had to have a confirmed antibody test prior to donating convalescent plasma. Now, anyone who donates blood could potentially be aiding those who can’t fight the virus on their own through plasma transfusions.

“This allows us now to expand that to donors who maybe didn’t know that they had been exposed, because we know there are A-symptomatic patients,” Troughton said.

Troughton said there isn’t a way to read the donor’s blood to know if they have the active virus, unless they’re far enough along in their recovery to harbor antibodies, but, she says, the FDA has found no indication blood can spread the virus.

“We have not had any cases identified of the virus itself being transferred by blood so that is not really the concern,” she said.

For anyone who does donate and realizes they may have been exposed to the virus recently, she said the best course of action is to play it safe.

“If we are notified by a donor that they have been found positive, we do, out of a precautionary matter, discard that product,” Troughton said.

That used to be the case, but now:

“You know, it depends on their antibody result,” she said.

The biggest takeaway, she said, is that the Red Cross is doing more to test each donation a donor makes.

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