Convalescent plasma - helping to assist others

Published on LCDR Dave Devlin (author)

Topic(s): Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, Defence Blood Challenge

Warrant Officer Darren Jago, of HMAS Cerberus, makes his 8th donation of convalescent plasma, supported by Registered Nurse Joy from the Frankston Lifeblood Donor Centre in Victoria. (photo: )
Warrant Officer Darren Jago, of HMAS Cerberus, makes his 8th donation of convalescent plasma, supported by Registered Nurse Joy from the Frankston Lifeblood Donor Centre in Victoria.

Many blood donors who have recently recovered from COVID-19 are rolling up their sleeves to assist clinical trials to help find effective treatments.

Plasma is the liquid part of blood, full of antibodies. Antibodies are proteins your body makes to help fight off a virus.

When you recover, the antibodies stay in your blood for some time as part of your immune system. This built-up immunity could assist in treatment of patients with active COVID-19.

Warrant Officer Darren Jago is currently posted to HMAS Cerberus and recovered from his COVID-19 diagnosis back in April. 

As a regular blood donor since 2007, he was asked by Red Cross Lifeblood to consider donating convalescent plasma.

“The virus took about four days to really hit me after my diagnosis, it felt like the normal flu but three times worse,” Warrant Officer Jago said.

“I put my recovery down to the level of military fitness we all maintain in the service and the great medical support I received.

“I was first contacted by Red Cross Lifeblood after I registered to donate plasma when my recovery waiting period completed.

“It was then that they discussed the importance of donating convalescent plasma and how it would assist others.

“Once I understood that my contribution would be helping those in need and possibly the broader Australian community, I couldn’t refuse,” he said.

Mrs Sally Gavin is the Group Account Manager, Regional Partnerships Team at the Australian Red Cross Lifeblood, and has been greatly involved in the Australian Defence Force Blood Challenge for many years. Mrs Gavin spoke of the convalescent plasma program.

“Currently there are two clinical trials to determine the effect of convalescent plasma on Australian patients in the effort to identify effective treatments,” Mrs Gavin said.

“It's been over four months since Lifeblood started collecting convalescent plasma to support Australians with COVID-19 and the initiative is moving ahead in great strides.”

“Donors of the antibody-rich plasma are increasing each week, with more than 2050 collections generated so far from 668 people who have recovered from the virus,” she said.

“To date Lifeblood has issued 40 units of clinical convalescent plasma.”

There are two uses of the convalescent plasma collected by Lifeblood.

The first is a clinical collection where the donation is directly processed into a plasma unit for direct transfusion from donor to patient.

The second use is a super-boosted immune product, known as COVID-19 immunoglobulin, sent to CSL Behring weekly for manufacturing to create a pooled product from many donors to be given to patients with COVID-19.

Warrant Officer Jago says he believes it is always better to give than it is to receive, especially when it comes to blood donations.

“The message I would you give to others in similar circumstances that may not know about convalescent plasma is simple, Giving, blood, plasma or platelets helps,” he said.

“It is only a small gesture but if It can help one person then I am very happy to donate and I would urge others to consider it.

“The ability to give convalescent plasma at this time will change and improve so many people’s lives in this uneasy environment.”

For more information on donating convalescent plasma visit
www.lifeblood.com.au/convalescent-plasma.

For more information on the Defence Blood Challenge visit
www.donateblood.com.au/lifeblood-teams/defence.