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Convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19

Status: Published on

HIQA was asked by the Department of Health to undertake a health technology assessment (HTA) scoping report on convalescent plasma for the treatment of COVID-19.

To date, there is no effective treatment for COVID-19, or vaccine to protect people against the virus. Convalescent plasma from patients recently recovered from a disease contains antibodies which, when transfused into others, may confer passive immunity to the disease in recipients. Passive immunity occurs when someone is given antibodies to a disease rather than producing the antibodies themselves. Convalescent plasma has been proposed as a potential treatment for patients with COVID-19, or as a preventive treatment in pre-symptomatic cases at risk of severe COVID-19 disease.

Based on four randomised controlled trials, there is limited evidence that convalescent plasma is an effective treatment for COVID-19. Important factors in the successful treatment of COVID-19 with convalescent plasma are likely to include a sufficiently high neutralising antibody titre in the donated plasma and the extent to which the recipient has had a significant antibody response prior to transfusion. In terms of safety, the rate of potentially transfusion-related severe adverse events appears to be low, although comparative data are limited. In the absence of viable treatment alternatives, convalescent plasma may offer a potential therapeutic option for patients at high risk of a severe course of the disease.