Convalescent Plasma: What We Still Need to Know

September 09, 2020

Convalescent plasma—the liquid portion of the blood obtained from COVID-19 survivors—is rich in antibodies that can fight the novel coronavirus.

Soon after the COVID-19 pandemic began in the United States, researchers started collecting plasma from survivors to transfuse into patients who were sick with the disease, in the hope that the antibodies would help those patients recover. But to get the chance to be treated with convalescent plasma, most patients had to enroll in a clinical trial.

In late August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration granted an Emergency Use Authorization for convalescent plasma and now any hospitalized patient with COVID-19 can receive it with few, if any, restrictions. 

At Columbia, transfusion medicine expert Steven Spitalnik, MD, professor of pathology & cell biology at Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons, is participating in a prospective randomized clinical trial and other studies of this treatment, which he says are still vital to conduct. 

CUIMC News spoke with Spitalnik and his collaborator James Zimring, MD, PhD, professor of pathology at the University of Virginia School of Medicine, about the therapy.