COVID-19 antibody screening could lead to life-saving plasma donations

Updated: Aug. 5, 2020 at 1:25 PM CDT
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TYLER, Texas (KLTV) - COVID-19 antibody screening will resume Thursday in Kilgore and health officials hope the results lead to life-saving plasma.

KLTV’s Jamey Boyum talks with Dr. Jennifer Howes, the Chief of Critical Care for Christus Trinity Mother Frances Health, to learn more about convalescent plasma doantion.

“So this is just like a standard blood donation. The purpose of collecting the plasma from a patient who has antibodies, which indicates they have had the coronavirus and has recovered,” Howes said. “The purpose of that is to get those antibodies and infuse them into a patient who is critically ill with coronavirus to help them hopefully fight the disease.”

The Federal Drug Administration recently put out a public service announcement seeking to “dramatically increase donations of convalescent plasma by the end of August in the whole-of-America fight against the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic,” according to the agency’s website.

Public antibody screening is being held twice a week at CHRISTUS Good Shepherd in Kilgore. That screening is from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It’s free to Kilgore residents and $60 for non-Kilgore residents.

Howes tells us it’s part of a research study using protocol from the Mayo Clinic.

“We’re using their protocol, their consents, all of that. This is an investigational therapy, and we’re working closely with them on this,” Howes said.

In June, the Mayo Clinic reported that “researchers and collaborators have found investigational convalescent plasma to be safe following transfusion in a diverse group of 20,000 patients.”

Donated plasma is stored in a blood bank and doctors must request the plasma for a COVID-19 patient.

Not everyone with COVID-19 will receive the antibody treatment. It’s not being administered to people who have the virus and are able to manage their symptoms at home or to those who are hospitalized but not extremely ill.

“We are reserving this therapy for patients who are very ill. This therapy has been around and has shown to be effective in several other diseases. Most recently probably the Ebola cases a few years ago,” Howes said.

For those who test positive for COVID-19 antibodies, Howes said there are a couple ways they can get more information about becoming a plasma donor, including talking to their primary care provider, or getting a referral from a CHRISTUS outpatient facility. Information about plasma donation can also be found at

“Obviously, this is an ongoing study so we don’t have any definitive results at this point, but it’s shown promise in other diseases,” Howes said. “We’re hopeful that we’re going to get the same results here.”

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