What is the role of convalescent plasma in the treatment of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?

Updated: Aug 03, 2020
  • Author: David J Cennimo, MD, FAAP, FACP, AAHIVS; Chief Editor: Michael Stuart Bronze, MD  more...
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Answer

The FDA is facilitating access to convalescent plasma, antibody-rich products that are collected from eligible donors who have recovered from COVID-19. Convalescent plasma has not yet been shown to be effective in COVID-19. The FDA states that it is important to determine its safety and efficacy via clinical trials before routinely administering convalescent plasma to patients with COVID-19.

The FDA has posted information for investigators wishing to study convalescent plasma for use in patients with serious or immediately life-threatening COVID-19 through the process of single-patient emergency Investigational New Drug (IND) applications for individual patients. The FDA is also actively engaging with researchers to discuss the possibility of collaboration on the development of a master protocol for use of convalescent plasma, with the goal of reducing duplicative efforts. [232]

The use of convalescent plasma has a long history in the treatment of infectious diseases. Writing in the Journal of Clinical Investigation Casadevall and Pirofski [233] proposed using it as a treatment for COVID-19, and Bloch et al [234] laid out a conceptual framework for implementation. To date, two small case series have been published. [235, 236] These series reported improvement in oxygenation, sequential organ failure assessment (SOFA) scores, and eventual ventilator weaning in some patients. The timelines of improvement varied from days to weeks. Caution is advised, as these were not controlled trials and other pharmacologic methods (antivirals) were used in some patients. [236]

A Cochrane review of convalescent plasma use in patients with COVID-19 is perpetually being updated as data emerge. As of July 10, 2020, the review included 20 studies with 5443 participants, of whom 5211 received convalescent plasma. Among these studies was one randomized controlled trial with 103 participants (52 received convalescent plasma). At the time of publication, the authors expressed uncertainty as to the benefits of convalescent plasma in terms of affecting mortality at hospital discharge, prolonging time to death, or improving clinical symptoms at 7 or 28 days. [237]

A meta-analysis of 15 controlled studies showed a significantly lower mortality rate in patients with COVID-19 who received convalescent plasma compared with control groups. However, the authors point out that the studies were mostly of low or very low quality with a moderate or high risk of bias. [238]

An open-label study (n = 103) of patients with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 in Wuhan, China, given convalescent plasma did not result in a statistically significant improvement in time to clinical improvement within 28 days compared with standard of care alone. [239]

A nonrandomized study transfused patients based on supplemental oxygen needs with convalescent plasma from donors with a SARS-CoV-2 anti-spike antibody titer of at least 1:320 dilution. Matched control patients were retrospectively identified within the electronic health record database. Supplemental oxygen requirements and survival were compared between plasma recipients and controls. Results showed convalescent plasma transfusion improved survival in nonintubated patients (P = 0.015), but not in intubated patients (P = 0.752). [240]


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