Since the earliest days of the global COVID-19 pandemic, BioBridge Global and its subsidiaries have been part of the overall fight to ensure that lifesaving therapies remain available to hospitals and patients in the community.
From multiple types of donations to critically needed COVID-19 testing, the organization has used its resources to respond to the most serious health crisis of the last 100 years and fulfill its mission to save and enhance lives through the healing power of human cells and tissue.
A boost for patients
Last spring, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center responded to the FDA’s emergency use authorization allowing plasma donations from those who had recovered from COVID-19 to be used in the fight against the disease.
Previous pandemics had shown plasma of those who have beaten the disease contained antibodies that might help those battling the infection.
In the span of a week, the center established a program to collect convalescent plasma and distribute it to hospitals. That program recently distributed its 20,000th dose of convalescent plasma, with a quarter of that amount provided in January 2021 alone.
The center is the only organization in San Antonio collecting what is known as convalescent plasma donations for transfusion directly to patients.
Maintain the blood supply
Even in a pandemic, there is a significant need for blood donations for cancer and surgery patients, accident victims, new mothers, and more. Last spring, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center moved blood drives to larger venues, including the Alamodome, to allow for donations with social distancing, masks in place and additional sanitary measures.
All blood drives and donor rooms continue to follow safety guidelines, and the center actually managed to record a small increase in the number of donations from 2019 to 2020.
Trauma program grows
The Brothers in Arms program, already the nation’s largest civilian program providing specially tested O-positive blood for use in emergency trauma cases, continued through the pandemic. The need for blood in pre-hospital settings – aboard medical helicopters, at accident scenes and in emergency vehicles – stayed steady in 2020, and so did the supply.
More than 6,500 qualified Brothers in Arms donors were identified, double the total from 2019, and their donations kept up with demand. A recent article in a military medical journal outlined the successful deployment of the program.
Testing for COVID-19
Testing expertise at BioBridge Global and its QualTex Laboratories was vital to the quick deployment of quick-turnaround, highly accurate COVID-19 testing by Community Labs, which established its testing laboratory within BioBridge Global facilities. That expertise also helped create a model that other cities and organizations could use for testing micro-populations like schools or businesses.
In addition, QualTex Laboratories was able to set up a program to test blood donations for the presence of antibodies to COVID-19. The results served as a way to trace the spread of the infection and help people who may have experienced mild COVID-19 symptoms – or none at all – know if they had in fact been infected.
Other donation programs continue
Despite the challenges caused by the pandemic, teams from the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center continued their work collecting tissue donations: bone, ligaments and tendons, veins, heart values, skin and more. Each donor’s gift can help up to 75 people overcome conditions from bone injuries to burns.
The center also has continued efforts to add thousands of tissue, stem cell and bone marrow donors to regional and international registries. Online campaigns added hundreds of potential donors, even in a year when in-person recruitment was suspended.