Surge in COVID-19 cases in San Antonio leads to rising need for convalescent plasma

Recovered patients can help those battling coronavirus by donating plasma to South Texas Blood & Tissue Center program
June 18, 2020
convalescent plasma donor

As cases of COVID-19 surge in San Antonio and South Texas, the need for convalescent plasma donors is rising dramatically. 

The South Texas Blood & Tissue Center, a subsidiary of nonprofit BioBridge Global, is collecting plasma donations from people who have recovered from COVID-19 as part of a treatment for seriously ill patients. The record increase in cases locally and nationally has significantly boosted the need for plasma from those with antibodies to COVID-19 in their bloodstream.  

STBTC is part of a study led by the Mayo Clinic into the use of convalescent plasma, which possibly can help a patient’s own immune system fight the virus. A recent study showed plasma transfusions benefited almost three-quarters of the patients who received them. 

A number of “super donors” in San Antonio have made multiple donations, but the concentration of antibodies tends to go down over time, so new donors are needed. 

Last week, the blood center was sending out five to six units of plasma a day. But this week, the center has been distributing approximately 15-20 units a day to area hospitals, depleting reserves given by more than 90 donors in the program. 

Anyone who has recovered from COVID-19 may be eligible to donate plasma. A blood test is required to see if there are enough antibodies in the plasma for a usable dose. 

Through Aug. 31, anyone who completes a blood donation with the South Texas Blood & Tissue Center will have their donation tested for COVID-19 antibodies at no cost. Results will be mailed to donors within 14 days. 

Potential plasma donors can send an email to COVID19@SouthTexasBlood.org to find out if they qualify for the program.  

The city experienced the largest count of new cases of COVID-19 this week since the start of the pandemic. County Judge Nelson Wolff called it “by far the worst crisis we’ve had since it started.” 

All blood donations are by appointment only to facilitate social distancing requirements, and all staff and donors are required to wear masks. Donors can call 210-731-5590 or visit SouthTexasBlood.org to schedule a donation.