Can Blood Donation Aid In the Recovery of COVID-19 Patients?
Fri, December 3, 2021

Can Blood Donation Aid In the Recovery of COVID-19 Patients?


Tiffany Pinckney remembered being infected with COVID-19 and as soon as she recovered, she became one of the US’s first survivors to donate blood to treat infected patients, reported Lauren Neergaard and Marshall Ritzel of NBC New York, a television station.

Doctors all over the world are leveraging a century-old treatment for infections—infusions of blood plasma that contain immune molecules enable survivors to recover from the virus. Will it work? There’s no proof yet. As treatments for coronavirus continues, Pinckney said, “We just hope it works.”  

Blood Donation Knowledge Questionnaire (BDKQ) In Brazil (2018)

Miriane Lucindo Zucoloto and Edson Zangiacomi Martinez of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC used the BDKQ to assess the participants’ knowledge of blood donation. A total of 1,055 primacy healthcare users answered all the questions of the BDKQ. Of the respondents, 63.4% had never donated blood, 23.3% had already donated blood, and (13.3%) declared themselves unable to donate blood. 

When the question “Is all donated blood tested in order to verify if it has any disease that can be transmitted to others?” was asked, 93.5% of respondents answered yes and 6.5% said no. When asked if it is permissible by law to pay a person to donate blood in Brazil, 92% said no, 2.2% said yes, and 5.6% said they don’t know.

Regarding the question “Can a person who has diabetes or high blood pressure donate blood,” 88.8% answered no, 2.2% said yes, and 9% said they do not know. When asked if an individual who has or has had any type of cancer can donate blood, 84.8% answered no, 2.1 answered yes, and 13.1% admitted they do not know the answer. When asked if people below 16 years can donate blood, 81% said not, 9.5% said yes and I don’t know. When asked if pregnant women can donate blood, 76.4% said no, 4.5 answered yes, and 19.1% said they don’t know the answer.

When the question “Does donating blood thicken or thin the blood?” was raised, 70.6% answered neither, 13.6% said they don’t know, 8.3% said it would thin the blood, and 7.5% said it would thicken. The authors concluded that the participants’ knowledge of blood donation was correlated to education level, sex, and previous blood donation.

Assessing the Knowledge, Attitude, and Practices About Blood Donation Among Medical Students In North India (2018)

Renu Chauhan, Rajesh Kumar, and Supriya Thakur of PMC used a pre-tested, structured questionnaire as their study tool to assess the knowledge, attitude, and practices of medical students about voluntary blood donation. They found that the respondents demonstrated an overall knowledge rate of 74.4%.

With regard to the source of information, 74% cited educational institutions, 36% mentioned television, 31% said through blood donation caps, 28% mentioned newspapers. 21% said they get information from the internet, as well as from their friends (19%) and parents (17%).

When asked “Do you think that people should donate blood,” 91% said yes, 4% said no, and 5% answered not sure. 91% of the respondents were also willing to donate blood in the future, compared to those who answered no (4%) and not sure (5%). However, 84% would not like to donate blood to only family members and friends (versus 16% who said yes). Meanwhile, 84% would like to donate blood to strangers who are in need of blood (versus 16% of respondents who answered no).

The top reasons for not donating blood were “I was not approached to donate blood” (53%), unfit to donate blood (31.5%), and fear of needles (12.2%). 2.8% said they might need to donate for friends/relatives in the future and 0.5% said they are afraid of knowing any disease status when screening for infections.

The respondents demonstrated good knowledge pf and a favorable attitude towards blood donation. However, having regular checkups and nutritious meals should be offered to students since many of them were anemic or underweight.



Survivors Express Their Interest to Donate Blood

When a person is infected, their bodies produce proteins called antibodies to target the germ. The antibodies float in their plasma or the yellowish liquid part of blood for months or years. But medical professionals don’t know how long the antibodies of survivors will hold against COVID-19.

But “they’re the safest ones on the street,” noted Dr. Rebecca Haley of Bloodworks Northwest in Seattle, which is working to identify donors. She added that they should not be “making a dent in their antibody supply for themselves.”

The Food and Drug Administration informed hospitals on how to seek case-by-case emergency permission to use convalescent plasma. Houston Methodist Hospital and Mount Sinai seized the opportunity. Families are also jumping on the opportunity as they log into social media to ask on behalf of sick loved ones and people recovering from the virus how they could donate blood.

Over 1,000 people signed up with the National COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma Project, as said by Michigan State University. Dozens of hospitals established the group to drive plasma donation and research.  



Blood Donation Requirements Should Be Met First

Donors cannot just show up at blood centers. Survivors with a proven COVID-19 infection who have been symptom-free for several weeks must be tested to determine if the virus is completely gone. Donors must also be healthy enough to meet the other requirements for blood donation such as being at least 16 or 17 years old depending on the state’s law, explained Mayo Clinic, a healthcare company.

Some states permit legal minors to donate blood as long they have their parent’s consent. Would-be donors must also weigh at least 110 pounds. They also need to be tested to assess if their antibody level is high enough. Dr. Julie Ledgerwood of the National Institutes of Health stated, “You don’t want to take plasma from someone who had a mediocre immune response. That wouldn’t be helpful.”



Research Teams Embark On A Quest to Assess the Effectivity of Convalescent Plasma

Studies are being conducted to test convalescent plasma against regular care in sick patients, as well as to curb COVID-19 infection among individuals who are at high risk of exposure (ex: healthcare workers).

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health are also assessing the antibody levels of survivors to create a vaccine that is strong enough to protect people from the virus. Other researchers such as those in Tsinghua University in Beijing are trying to determine which antibodies are the most potent, allowing them to copy and turn the antibodies into drugs.  

Blood donation can help fight COVID-19 as more researchers across the globe test the effectivity of convalescent plasma. Citizens are free to donate blood but they first have to meet certain requirements before they can save lives.