During this year of COVID-19, the amount of blood donated has been significantly reduced in Israel and around the world because of lockdowns and fear that the precious red liquid might be contaminated with the virus. But Israeli researchers have not shown there is no reason to worry. Whole blood can be taken safely even from those who have recovered from the virus without harming the recipients, according to staff at the blood bank, neuroimmune lab, central virology lab and internal medicine department at Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer and Tel Aviv University’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine.
Until their study, it was not known whether the blood donated by people who had recovered from coronavirus was safe to give to others. In addition, plasma from recovered patients is regarded as beneficial for promoting the recovery of people struggling with the virus.
Writing in the latest (January 2021) issue of IMAJ (Israel Medical Association Journal under the title “Convalescent Whole Blood Donors Screening Strategies for Providing Efficient and Safe COVID-19 Survivors’ Plasma and Other Blood Components”) were Prof. Anat Achiron, Drs. Mathilda Mandel and Howard Amitai, Michael Gurevich and Michal Mandelboim.
The researchers recruited 180 people – 153 men and 27 women – aged 18 to 65 years old who had recovered from COVID-19 infections and were willing to donate blood within up to 45 days from their active disease. The fact that they had been infected by the virus and that they had recovered completely, without symptoms at least 28 days before, was proven by nasopharyngeal swabs. The blood was processed and separated into red blood cells, platelets, plasma and leukocytes.
They tested the blood products with immunoassays to find out whether they could infect recipients. “All units were screened and found negative for the nucleic-acid-based detection of SARS-CoV-2 and thus no risk of occult COVID-19 infection and no viral transmission exists from blood products. Therefore, we suggest that viral inactivation procedures are not needed.”
In addition, “plasma units with positive IgG antibodies could serve as an efficient passive immunization for COVID-19 patients. Moreover, in the face of increased transfusion demand for treatment of anemia and coagulation dysfunction in critical COVID-19 patients, red blood cell units and random platelet units from convalescent donors can be safely transfused,” and the team recommended this therapy for implementation around the world.