A Mayo Clinic study released this week found that plasma treatment is safe for COVID-19 patients.

St. Luke's hospital and Essentia Health in Duluth participated in the study, which followed a diverse group of 20,000 COVID patients who were at risk of progressing to a severe or life-threatening condition. Between April 3 and June 11, patients were followed for one week after receiving transfusions.

The study also found declines in mortality after transfusion, but this isn't sufficient evidence to prove that transfusions effectively treat the virus, according to a Mayo news release.

Mortality rates declined to 8.6% over a seven-day period compared to 12% in a similar previous study of transfusion patients. And serious adverse events related to transfusion were less than 1%.

The decrease in mortality rates may be in part due to patients in the latter part of the study being less critically ill. The decrease could also be impacted by improved medical care due to a better understanding of the pandemic and that more patients received plasma treatment earlier in their hospital stay.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

In theory, the treatment has some promise. Plasma from donors has antibodies that may help fight off the virus quicker, as these antibodies are what likely primarily helped the donor recover from the virus. People receive these antibodies via plasma transfusion.

“Our efforts to understand convalescent plasma continue,” Dr. Michael Joyner, principal investigator of the EAP at Mayo Clinic and lead author of the article, wrote in the release. “We’re optimistic but must remain objective as we assess increasing amounts of data.”

The study involved hospitals across the nation as part of the Expanded Access Program for COVID-19 led by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

It included a diverse group of patients. Nearly 40% of patients were women, 20% were African Americans, almost 35% of the patients were Hispanic and 5% were Asian.

"We hope recruitment of minority subjects continues to increase given the disproportionate burden these communities have faced with COVID-19," researcher DeLisa Fairweather wrote in the release.

Blood centers are still seeking plasma donations from recovered COVID patients. Much like blood donations, people donate blood through a needle. But, when donating plasma, donors' red blood cells are returned to their bodies.

Research of this treatment is now expanding to study its effectiveness, as it's the only antibody-based therapy for COVID-19, the news release said.