Effect of Convalescent Plasma Therapy on Time to Clinical Improvement in Patients With Severe and Life-threatening COVID-19: A Randomized Clinical Trial

JAMA. 2020 Jun 3;e2010044. doi: 10.1001/jama.2020.10044. Online ahead of print.


Importance: Convalescent plasma is a potential therapeutic option for patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), but further data from randomized clinical trials are needed.

Objective: To evaluate the efficacy and adverse effects of convalescent plasma therapy for patients with COVID-19.

Design, setting, and participants: Open-label, multicenter, randomized clinical trial performed in 7 medical centers in Wuhan, China, from February 14, 2020, to April 1, 2020, with final follow-up April 28, 2020. The trial included 103 participants with laboratory-confirmed COVID-19 that was severe (respiratory distress and/or hypoxemia) or life-threatening (shock, organ failure, or requiring mechanical ventilation). The trial was terminated early after 103 of a planned 200 patients were enrolled.

Intervention: Convalescent plasma in addition to standard treatment (n = 52) vs standard treatment alone (control) (n = 51), stratified by disease severity.

Main outcomes and measures: Primary outcome was time to clinical improvement within 28 days, defined as patient discharged alive or reduction of 2 points on a 6-point disease severity scale (ranging from 1 [discharge] to 6 [death]). Secondary outcomes included 28-day mortality, time to discharge, and the rate of viral polymerase chain reaction (PCR) results turned from positive at baseline to negative at up to 72 hours.

Results: Of 103 patients who were randomized (median age, 70 years; 60 [58.3%] male), 101 (98.1%) completed the trial. Clinical improvement occurred within 28 days in 51.9% (27/52) of the convalescent plasma group vs 43.1% (22/51) in the control group (difference, 8.8% [95% CI, -10.4% to 28.0%]; hazard ratio [HR], 1.40 [95% CI, 0.79-2.49]; P = .26). Among those with severe disease, the primary outcome occurred in 91.3% (21/23) of the convalescent plasma group vs 68.2% (15/22) of the control group (HR, 2.15 [95% CI, 1.07-4.32]; P = .03); among those with life-threatening disease the primary outcome occurred in 20.7% (6/29) of the convalescent plasma group vs 24.1% (7/29) of the control group (HR, 0.88 [95% CI, 0.30-2.63]; P = .83) (P for interaction = .17). There was no significant difference in 28-day mortality (15.7% vs 24.0%; OR, 0.65 [95% CI, 0.29-1.46]; P = .30) or time from randomization to discharge (51.0% vs 36.0% discharged by day 28; HR, 1.61 [95% CI, 0.88-2.93]; P = .12). Convalescent plasma treatment was associated with a negative conversion rate of viral PCR at 72 hours in 87.2% of the convalescent plasma group vs 37.5% of the control group (OR, 11.39 [95% CI, 3.91-33.18]; P < .001). Two patients in the convalescent plasma group experienced adverse events within hours after transfusion that improved with supportive care.

Conclusion and relevance: Among patients with severe or life-threatening COVID-19, convalescent plasma therapy added to standard treatment, compared with standard treatment alone, did not result in a statistically significant improvement in time to clinical improvement within 28 days. Interpretation is limited by early termination of the trial, which may have been underpowered to detect a clinically important difference.

Trial registration: Chinese Clinical Trial Registry: ChiCTR2000029757.