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Asian donors more likely to have COVID-19 convalescent plasma which could save lives

17 June 2020

People from Asian communities who have recovered from COVID-19 are more likely to have the antibody-rich convalescent plasma which can save lives, according to early analysis.

Asian donors, including the man with the highest antibodies of Asian donors so far, are now supporting NHS Blood and Transplant’s for appeal for more people to donate plasma to help people with COVID-19.

NHSBT is collecting convalescent plasma for a major coronavirus treatment trial, and if the trial is successful, widespread use in hospitals. The antibody rich plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 can be transfused into people who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

New figures, reported into the programme last week, showed that Asian convalescent plasma donors were almost twice as likely to have high antibody levels as white donors. 63% of Asian donors met the threshold, compared to 36% of white donors. (1)

The results are from donations made by 592 people between 21 April and May 11.

Prof Dave Roberts, NHS Blood and Transplant Associate Medical Director for Blood Donation, said: “These are early results from a relatively small number of donors but the results are statistically significant. Our donors so far from Asian backgrounds were more likely to have the plasma which could save lives than white donors.

“We are not yet sure why this is the case. The indications from our work so far, and past studies, is that the more seriously ill people became, the more antibodies they made. A Public Health England report suggested people from Asian communities who have COVID-19 have a higher risk of becoming seriously ill.

“We can reassure people that convalescent donation is safe and easy. Your body quickly replaces the antibodies you donate. By donating convalescent plasma, you could save lives.”

Convalescent plasma is being collected at NHSBT’s 23 donor centres around the country including London, Birmingham, Manchester, Luton and Leeds, as well as in pop-up donor centres.

Convalescent plasma donation takes about 45 minutes, during which time you can sit back and relax. Your body usually replaces the plasma you’ve donated in 24-48 hours and you can get on with your normal day after donating. Your body quickly replaces the antibodies and people can donate plasma as often as every two weeks.

NHS Blood and Transplant is appealing for people who have recovered from COVID-19 or the symptoms, and who live near one of its 23 donor centres, to offer to donate their plasma by calling 0300 123 23 23 or completing our online form.

Asian donor stories

Rajeev Verma, 52, a healthcare facilities manager from Wolverhampton, has the highest antibody levels of any Asian donor so far.

He had to spend a few nights in hospital with breathing difficulties.

Rajeev said: “COVID-19 is very dangerous and it can attack anyone regardless of colour or creed.  There are so many symptoms that you have to endure and fight against.

“Donating plasma was a new and pleasant experience, the nurses were very supporting and reassuring and the process took around 35mins. If I can help in the research and save someone's life with my donation, I would do it with great pleasure. It is better to give than to receive.

“I find that some people from the Asian community take a step back when you say you have had coronavirus. I am very open. I think there needs to be more awareness. I would very much support people talking more and feeling able to donate.”

Bhairvi Sampat, aged 40, an infection prevention and control nurse specialist from Bexley who works at Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust, recovered from coronavirus and donated convalescent plasma at Tooting donor centre in south London.

She said: “I was very nervous about donating but it was actually easier than I expected. It felt brilliant afterwards, to know my donation might help someone who is seriously ill.

“I think there needs to be more openness in the Asian community. There’s still some stigma around the virus, a lot of people wouldn’t even say they had had the virus.

“I would definitely say to other Asian people that they should go and donate. It’s a simple procedure. You can help people who are less fortunate.”

Notes

  1. 592 Convalescent Plasma donors between 21 April and 14 May 2020 were identified from data received on antibody testing results. An indicator for ‘high antibody titre level’ was calculated using EUROimmun results. High antibody titre was defined as EUROimmun>=6.0.