Typically, convalescent therapy uses blood from people who have recovered from a specific illness to help others fight it. The Food and Drug Administration authorized the application of convalescent therapy to manage covid-19 during the pandemic because no treatment has been found for the virus.
Rapid covid-19 testing for antibodies shows the people who had covid-19 infections in the past and the immunity they have developed against the virus. In convalescent therapy to treat covid-19, the blood is donated by people who have recovered from covid-19 infections and have tested positive for covid-19 antibodies. The donated blood is then processed to remove the blood cells to leave behind the much-needed plasma and antibodies. The blood collection facilities also test the plasma for the levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies and conventional infectious disease markers before it is released for clinical use. The plasma is administered to people with severe covid-19 infection to help them fight the virus.
Convalescent therapy is approved because it may help people hospitalized with covid-19 recover from it. It can lessen the severity of the covid-19 symptoms or shorten the active phase of the disease.
The risks of convalescent therapy in managing covid-19
Blood has been used previously to treat many infections, and it is considered safe because the blood undergoes screening beforehand. The chances of contracting the covid-19 virus from convalescent plasma have not been tested. The covid-19 is still a new virus, and most of the researches surrounding it are in their infant stages. However, researching scientists believe that the risks are low because the donor fully recovered from the covid-19 infection. Again, the approved antibodies testing for covid-19 indicates the developing immunity of the donor against covid-19.
Convalescent plasma at large has some risks, including allergic reactions, difficulty breathing or lung damage, and infections like hepatitis B and C. However, the chances of infections are usually low as long as the blood is screened for safety. Complications vary, and some people experience no complications at all.
What to expect if the doctor is to use convalescent therapy on you
If you are hospitalized with a severe covid-19 infection, the doctor may recommend convalescent therapy to help your body fight off the disease. They may order convalescent plasma that is compatible with your blood type from the ones available. If you have any questions about convalescent therapy, you should discuss them with your doctor.
Before convalescent therapy, the nurses prepare you by inserting a single-use sterile needle connected to an IV into your vein in one of your arms. Then the plasma bag is attached to the tube, and the plasma drips into the tube to your vein. The process takes one to two hours.
After that, the doctor monitors you, records your body’s response to the convalescent therapy, and lets you know if you need any other therapies. The effectiveness of convalescent therapy in treating covid-19 is not yet known. Some people may experience complete recovery, while others may not experience any benefit. However, clinical data has shown that convalescent therapy may reduce the severity of the symptoms of covid-19 or shorten the phase of the active infection.
More research is underway to determine the effectiveness of convalescent plasma in managing a covid-19 active infection.