Surge in COVID-19 cases in San Antonio leads to growing need for convalescent plasma

Recovered patients can help those battling coronavirus by donating plasma to South Texas Blood & Tissue Center program
June 23, 2020

With an increase in COVID-19 hospitalizations in South Texas, demand for convalescent plasma has increased tenfold from about five orders per day from area hospitals at the beginning of the month to more than 50 per day currently.

Because of the surge in orders, the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center over the weekend was unable to fill several orders for patients who are fighting COVID-19. The center is working to fill those back orders – as well as new orders coming in – as quickly as possible, which will require more people who have recovered from coronavirus to become plasma donors.

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global, is collecting plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19 as part of a treatment for seriously ill patients. The record increase in cases locally and nationally has significantly boosted the need for plasma from those with antibodies to COVID-19 in their bloodstream.

The local blood center is part of a study led by the Mayo Clinic into the use of convalescent plasma, which includes antibodies to the coronavirus that causes COVID-19 that can help a patient’s own immune system fight the virus.

A recent study showed plasma transfusions benefited almost three-quarters of the patients who received them.

A number of “super donors” in San Antonio have made multiple donations, but the concentration of antibodies tends to go down over time, so new donors are needed.

Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 may be eligible to donate plasma. A blood test is required to see if there are enough antibodies in the plasma for a usable dose.

Through Aug. 31, anyone who completes a blood donation with the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center will have their donation tested for COVID-19 antibodies at no cost. Results will be mailed to donors within 14 days.

Potential plasma donors can send an email to COVID19@SouthTexasBlood.org to find out if they qualify for the program or visit SouthTexasBlood.org/COVID19 to learn more.

The city experienced the largest count of new cases of COVID-19 this week since the start of the pandemic. County Judge Nelson Wolff called it “by far the worst crisis we’ve had since it started.”

All blood donations are by appointment only to facilitate social distancing requirements, and all staff and donors are required to wear masks. Donors can call 210-731-5590 or visit SouthTexasBlood.org to schedule a donation.