Donating plasma during COVID-19

Five percent of people in Germany live with a rare disease. The international biotech company CSL Behring, based in Marburg in central Hessen, focuses on the treatment of these rare and serious diseases. Human blood plasma serves as a raw material for the production of life-saving medicines. To secure the production of these therapeutics, plasma donors are urgently needed – especially now, during the pandemic.

Foto: CSL Plasma GmbH

Many patients suffering from rare diseases go through an odyssey of years from the first symptoms to the correct diagnosis. On average, it takes seven years for a patient to receive the correct findings and appropriate treatment. One patient in Germany, who wishes to be identified only by his first name — Max — went through such an odyssey: Max suffers from a congenital immune defect called agammaglobulinemia. Those affected have extremely low antibody levels and as a result have an extremely weakened immune system. Thanks to treatment with immunoglobulins (antibodies) obtained from the plasma of plasma donors, Max can now lead an almost normal life.

"Patients regularly visit us here in Marburg and tell us how their lives have changed positively through our biotherapeutics. We see the relief in the eyes of our patients, and this motivates both me and our staff every day," says Michael Schroeder, Managing Director of CSL Behring, Marburg.

Plasma donations are still a rarity

Plasma donations are extremely important for medical care, with highly diverse uses. Whether for coagulation disorders or immunodeficiency, plasma is a life-saver which – like blood – cannot be produced synthetically to this day. This is why hospitals and medical facilities are dependent on donations. Up to now, only 63 % of the European and German plasma requirements can be covered by their own plasma donations. Imported plasma from the USA has so far made up for this deficit.

A 2020 survey of the population-at-large shows that only 8 percent of all respondents have donated blood plasma so far. (Forsa survey, number of respondents: 1001, July 2020).
0 %

This situation is further complicated by current events: In plasma donation centers, capacities have been reduced due to the corona pandemic and the corresponding risk minimization measures that have been introduced. “We have adapted the safety and hygiene standards in our centers so that there is no increased risk of infection when donating. In this way, we protect our donors, staff and, last but not least, our patients,” explains Berthold Suesser, Managing Director of CSL Plasma GmbH. “We need plasma in order to be able to produce vital drugs for our patients. People with immunodeficiency especially need the immunoglobulins extracted from plasma to prevent – particularly now – an increased susceptibility to infections.”

Berthold Süsser, CSL Plasma GmbH

Hygiene measures in plasma centers

Even before the current corona pandemic, high standards of hygiene were in place at all plasma centers operated by CSL Plasma worldwide. In order to protect the health of both donors and staff, hygiene measures have been tightened even further as a result of the pandemic: In addition to disposable materials such as gloves and protective masks, all surfaces are disinfected several times a day after contact with the donor. During the donation process, employees limit contact to the bare essentials and otherwise maintain a minimum distance of 1.5 meters. To make the stay as smooth as possible, all potential donors can register by telephone for an appointment in advance.

Plasma donation takes about 45 minutes and initially proceeds in a similar way to blood donation,” explains Berthold Suesser. “The biggest difference, however, is that the plasma is separated from the other components of the blood during the donation. Only the liquid blood component, the plasma, is collected. The body can regenerate this very quickly. This is why plasma donations are possible much more frequently than blood donations, namely twice a week and up to 60 times a year.”

Note: The recordings for the video were made before the outbreak of the corona pandemic and therefore do not yet show the current hygiene measures.

Plasma drugs are safe

The Robert Koch Institute is also urgently calling for blood and plasma donations in order to ensure the supply of many patients with medicines, some of which are essential for survival. Plasma drugs are safe, ensured not only by the high hygiene and safety measures in the centers but also by the production process itself. This process prevents any transmission of possible pathogens. As the Robert Koch Institute notes, “Plasma derivatives are subjected to at least two effective pathogen reduction processes and are considered safe with regard to SARS-CoV-2.” 

In Germany alone, around 16,000 chronically ill people are treated with plasma preparations. Worldwide, more than one million children and adults need drugs produced from plasma. For these reasons, CSL Behring offers a broad portfolio of recombinant and blood plasma-derived products for the treatment of coagulation disorders, immune defects, chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy and products for the treatment of hereditary angioedema and alpha-1-antitrypsin deficiency. These therapies help patients to regain some of their quality of life.

Blood plasma is a human resource

We all carry liquid within us from which vital human medicine can be obtained. More than half of our blood consists of a yellowish-clear liquid, blood plasma, which contains antibodies, i.e. immunoglobulins. These protein components are essential for defense against infections, and they form the basis for many essential medicines.

Plasma donation supports the treatment of COVID-19 patients

Research centers and companies around the world are joining forces in the fight against the coronavirus. CSL Behring joined forces with other leading biotechnology companies to fight the coronavirus in the CoVIg-19 Plasma Alliance. Shared resources are helping to develop a therapy to treat patients with severe COVID-19 complications. In the development of a potential drug, the CoVIg-19 Alliance relies on antibodies formed in the blood of COVID-19 patients who have recovered. In order to ensure that a safe amount of the drug is available over the long term, plasma donations from recovered COVID-19 patients are required.

of people who have donated blood plasma previously would continue to donate plasma despite the current pandemic. Source: Forsa survey Number of people interviewed: 1001, July 2020
0 %

Plasma donors urgently wanted!

Saving lives and helping others.

This is why Berthold Suesser is urgently appealing for donations: “Due to the Corona crisis, an already scarce resource is now even scarcer. We need every single plasma donation for the production of vital drugs for our patients.”

Help people with weakened immune systems to get through this difficult time as well as possible. All of us can make a vital contribution to our health system and ensure that patients receive the best possible care.

Company Portrait

As a sister company of CSL Behring, one of the world’s leading manufacturers of biotherapeutics, CSL Plasma’s activities include the collection, testing and storage of human blood plasma. The company operates eight plasma centers throughout Germany where volunteers can donate blood plasma. A laboratory in Goettingen is responsible for assessing donor and product safety. The transport and storage of goods is handled by a plasma logistics center. This center is responsible for the entire logistics of plasma transport within Europe.

Leave a Comment