The Blood Community and COVID-19

AABB Established the “PLasma Antibody Network” (PLAN) – See More Below

Blood collectors across the United States have played a key role in helping to provide treatment for patients with COVID-19 until more advanced treatment options were available. AABB is proud of the contributions our Association’s member institutions have made during the pandemic and is pleased to support them in their heroic and essential work.

Blood collectors were called upon in the early months of the pandemic to begin collecting COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) from people who had recovered from the infection. In April 2020, the FDA announced it was expanding access to investigational CCP for patients hospitalized with severe or life-threatening COVID-19. In support of the FDA’s treatment program, blood collection facilities throughout the country immediately began making updates to their facilities and processes to collect CCP and distribute it to hospitals where it could provide much-needed treatment for patients with COVID-19 who had limited treatment options.

A Long History of Therapy

The collection and transfusion of convalescent plasma as a treatment for patients with infectious diseases was first used in the 1890s. Convalescent plasma has a long history of helping to reduce the severity of infectious disease outbreaks prior to the development of antimicrobial therapy in the 1940s.

In the early 20th century, convalescent plasma treatment was used during outbreaks of various infectious diseases, including measles, mumps and influenza. More recently, it was used during the H1N1 influenza pandemic in 2009, and again in 2013 during the Ebola outbreak in West Africa.

A Key Therapeutic Tool in the Fight Against COVID-19

FDA issued an initial emergency use authorization (EUA) for CPP in late August 2020, after publication of data from the Expanded Access Protocol, overseen by the Mayo Clinic, showed CCP transfusions to be safe and suggested a reduction in mortality among transfused patients. CCP remains an investigational treatment under emergency use authorization and is one of few first line treatment options for COVID patients.

Although initially regarded as a short-term bridge therapy, CCP has remained an important part of care for COVID patients for over a year, even as monoclonal antibody therapies and vaccines have been approved for use.

Since the early days of the pandemic, CCP has been the subject of multiple research studies to evaluate its safety and efficacy as a treatment for COVID-19. AABB has supported research to provide more information and has advocated for science to drive treatment guidelines.

New Insight and Regulatory Actions

More than a year after the pandemic began and following myriad scientific research, there is some evidence indicating that CCP may be an effective treatment for COVID-19 if it has a high concentration of antibodies and is given to certain patients early in the course of the infection.

Following a thorough review of the available scientific data, FDA announced a revision to its EUA for CCP on February 23, 2021, which was further revised on March 9, 2021. The most recent updates in FDA’s December 2021 Revised EUA for Use of COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma are captured in detail in the:

AABB has updated the Toolkit for CCP to reflect these changes from FDA.

AABB Recommendations and Resources

In December 2020, AABB’s Clinical Transfusion Medicine Committee, (CTMC) assembled a panel of experts to develop interim guidelines for the clinical use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP). These guidelines were subsequently published in Transfusion in March 2021.

Since that time, over 30 randomized clinical trials have developed new evidence that is highly relevant for the appropriate use of CCP in COVID-19 patients. AABB’s Board of Directors convened a committee of international subject matter experts, including members from the CTMC, to update the clinical practice guidelines for CCP. The committee completed “a formal systematic review and meta-analysis of the data and used GRADE methodology to formulate the current recommendations. The committee focused exclusively on randomized trial data to minimize the risk of bias.”

Clinical Practice Guidelines from the Association for the Advancement of Blood and Biotherapies (AABB): COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma, are intended to provide updated recommendations for the medical community to consider. In addition, AABB continues to provide resources and tools for both blood collectors and health care providers on CCP collection and treatment, including its Toolkit for CCP and its COVID-19 Resources page.

Looking to the Future: AABB’s new “PLasma Antibody Network” (PLAN) to Focus on Passive Antibody Therapies

AABB supports continued research related to CCP and other therapies for patients with COVID-19. Additional data from clinical trials are needed to continue to fully assess the efficacy of CCP and to clarify which patients are most likely to benefit. AABB will continue to work with partners across the medical community to determine the role of CCP in the coming months.

The next critical question for the blood community will be whether CCP is a viable strategy to respond to new SARS-CoV-2 variants. Because CCP is collected from patients who have recovered from COVID-19, if variants are present in a region, the CCP collected in that region would potentially include antibodies that would be most effective against that variant. This could be critical if current therapies or vaccines prove less useful against new COVID variants.

AABB’s Transfusion Medicine Section recently established a new subsection called the “PLasma Antibody Network” (PLAN) focused on supporting multidisciplinary coordination and collaboration related to passive antibody therapies to improve emergency preparedness and disaster response.

PLAN is a network of researchers, clinicians, manufacturers, blood collectors, plasma collectors, government officials and other public health representatives interested in improving the infrastructure related to antibody therapies such as convalescent plasma, monoclonal antibodies, hyperimmune globulin and polyclonal reagents.

PLAN will host regular meetings for:

  • members to connect,
  • share the state of the science with respect to antibody therapies,
  • identify challenges, and
  • explore opportunities to advance the field.

PLAN will also:

  • identify lessons learned from the COVID-19 pandemic and
  • make recommendations related to antibody therapies to strengthen the nation’s preparedness and response.

This will allow members to respond rapidly to the next pandemic and deploy antibody therapies using best practices that will increase the likelihood of effective use.

PLAN membership is available to AABB members. If you’re not already a member, join AABB now by selecting your membership type on AABB’s Membership page and following the subsequent steps. If you need assistance, please contact AABB’s Member Services Department at or +1.866.222.2498.

AABB members can join the PLAN subsection through the AABB website. To join, please log in to “My Account” and navigate My Profile>Subsections>Edit to Add/Remove Subsections. For assistance, contact AABB’s Member Services Department.