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Blood bank offers free coronavirus antibody testing for blood donors

  • A national blood bank is offering blood donors free coronavirus antibody testing.
  • The test will inform donors if they were exposed to the coronavirus at some point, even if they never showed any symptoms.
  • Blood with coronavirus antibodies is being used for research to help come up with an effective COVID-19 treatment.

In an effort to encourage volunteers to donate blood, Vitalant — a non-profit organization that helps distributes blood to hospitals — said that it will start informing blood donors if they have coronavirus antibodies. The antibody test Vitalant is using has already been approved by the FDA and will help individuals determine if they were exposed to the coronavirus, regardless of whether or not they ever exhibited symptoms.

The impetus for the program is that blood for various surgeries and medical treatment plans is in short supply because blood drives have effectively been on hiatus on account of COVID-19.

“While a positive antibody test does not mean that someone is immune to COVID-19, it does mean that they may be eligible to donate convalescent plasma in the future and help people with the disease,” Vitalant marketing officer Cliff Numark explained. “Convalescent plasma can be given directly to patients currently battling COVID-19 to help boost their ability to fight their illness.”

Indeed, Vitalant is interested in testing blood for coronavirus antibodies precisely because it can help scientists and researchers come up with an effective plan to combat the virus.

You might recall that Microsoft a few weeks ago launched a program to help people determine if they’re eligible to donate plasma for coronavirus research. In a blog post highlighting the benefits of studying blood with coronavirus antibodies, Microsoft explained:

Thankfully, as the human immune system learns to fight off the disease and people recover, we see some very promising ways that people’s naturally produced antibodies, which are present in convalescent plasma, can be used as treatment for others. The use of convalescent plasma is a technique dating back to the 1918 Spanish flu epidemic and was effective more recently during the SARS outbreak. Today, there is mounting clinical evidence that plasma collected from those who have recovered from COVID-19 can be used to treat ill COVID-19 patients.

Vitalant has already been collecting convalescent plasma for a weeks but the new program will hopefully result in a surge of blood donors.

Vitalant notes that the following individuals are not in a position to donate blood:

  • You had symptoms from a lab-diagnosed or suspected COVID-19 infection and have not had a subsequently-negative nasopharyngeal swab test result
  • You have lived with or been in close contact with individuals diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 infection
  • You are a health care worker who has been caring for a patient diagnosed with or suspected of having COVID-19 and have not consistently been able to use recommended personal protective equipment (face mask, gown and gloves)

You can read more about the eligibility requirements to donate over here.

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