Antibody tests done to blood
donations may help patients
SNOHOMISH COUNTY — Your blood donation could now directly assist in the fight against the coronavirus.
Bloodworks Northwest, which has centers in downtown Everett and Lynnwood, has announced all blood donations through Sept. 30 will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies that would be used to help others fighting the disease.
The American Red Cross, meanwhile, began testing all blood, platelet and plasma donations for COVID-19 antibodies in mid-June. The county chapter is in Everett.
The antibody tests are different than the tests that diagnose if somebody is infected.
If the tests show coronavirus antibodies are likely present, the donor will get a letter encouraging them to give plasma because it has the antibodies that could be vital for someone battling COVID-19.
Scientists aren’t certain, but recent studies suggest that the sooner people sick with COVID-19 receive plasma containing antibodies, the better their survival chances.
This has created a shift in thinking to make plasma more usable to more people, said Dr. Kirsten Alcorn, Bloodworks’ medical director.
It’s also not clear how quickly COVID-19 antibodies degrade over time, “and we don’t know if it will mean absolute immunity in the future,” Alcorn said.
COVID-19 antibodies research is “a hotbed of rapidly changing knowledge,” she said.
If the tests show a blood donation contains antibodies, they can separate the plasma and give it to someone immediately, Alcorn said. (Plasma is the liquid part of blood.)
The Red Cross has collected 281 units of convalescent plasma donations within Washington state and given 32,000 units to hospitals nationally, Red Cross Northwest Region communications director Colin Downey said last week.
At Bloodworks, the blood will be double-tested for antibodies, the proteins found in blood that get produced to fight a virus. Test results will be mailed to donors within two weeks of their donation.
The blood center wants to emphasize for Good Samaritans: If you newly finished fighting COVID-19, don’t rush in. There’s a 28-day waiting period after recovering before you can donate.
And for everyone: While blood donations are encouraged, the center asks that people who normally would be ineligible as donors to not lie their way in to get an antibodies test. It can harm the blood supply, Alcorn said.
Doctors and community health clinics do antibodies screenings.
Blood donation limits set by the federal government, for example, currently prohibit donations from men who have had sex with another man in the past 90 days.
The 90-day restriction on usually is 1 year, but was temporarily shortened by the Food and Drug Administration in light of blood donation supplies being crimped by COVID-19. (Until it changed in December 2015, the FDA stood up a lifetime ban on non-celibate gay and bisexual men from donating blood.)
There also are restrictions for people who have traveled from certain countries.
The antibody test results done by Bloodworks Northwest will be shared with local health authorities. Sharing results could help contact tracers who track COVID-19 exposures and deduce how cases spread, and also gives statistical information on antibody testing in the county, Alcorn said.
Appointments are required to donate at the Red Cross and at Bloodworks.
The American Red Cross for Snohomish County is in Everett at 2530 Lombard Ave., a block west of Broadway and a block north of Everett Avenue. To schedule an appointment, go to www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED-CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and press “1” to get started.
Bloodworks’ Everett Center is located at 2703 Oakes Ave. To schedule an appointment, call 425-740-2909. To ask for a same-day appointment, call 1-800-398-7888.
Bloodworks has a Lynnwood center on Highway 99, too; its number is 425-412-1000.
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