Convalescent plasma may be a possible treatment for COVID-19: A systematic review

Int Immunopharmacol. 2021 Feb;91:107262. doi: 10.1016/j.intimp.2020.107262. Epub 2020 Dec 5.


Introduction: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has spread globally. Therapeutic options including antivirals, anti-inflammatory compounds, and vaccines are still under study. Convalescent plasma(CP) immunotherapy was an effective method for fighting against similar viral infections such as SARS-CoV, and MERS-CoV. In the epidemic of COVID-19, a large number of literatures reported the application of CP. However, there is controversy over the efficacy of CP therapy for COVID-19. This systematic review was designed to evaluate the existing evidence and experience related to CP immunotherapy for COVID-19.

Methods: A literature search was conducted on Pubmed, Cochrane Library, Clinical Key, Wanfang Database; China National Knowledge Infrastructure(CNKI) were used to search for the proper keywords such as SARS-CoV-2, COVID-19, plasma, serum, immunoglobulins, blood transfusion, convalescent, novel coronavirus, immune and the related words for publications published until 15.10.2020. Other available resources were also used to identify relevant articles. The present systematic review was performed based on PRISMA protocol. Data extraction and risk of bias assessments were performed by two reviewers.

Results: Based on the inclusions and exclusions criteria, 45 articles were included in the final review. First, meta-analysis results of RCTs showed that, there were no statistically significant differences between CP transfusion and the control group in terms of reducing mortality(OR 0.79, 95% CI 0.52-1.19, I2 = 28%) and improving clinical symptoms(OR 1.21, 95%CI 0.68-2.16; I2 = 0%). The results of controlled NRSIs showed that CP therapy may reduce mortality in COVID-19 patients(RR 0.59, 95% CI 0.53-0.66, I2 = 0%). Second, limited safety data suggested that CP is a well-tolerated therapy with a low incidence of adverse events. But, due to lack of safety data for the control group, it is really not easy to determine whether CP transfusion has an impact on moderate to serious AEs. Thirdly, for children, pregnant, elderly, tumor and immunocompromised patients, CP may be a well-tolerated therapy, if the disease cannot be controlled and continues to progress. Studies were commonly of low or very low quality.

Conclusions: Although the results of limited RCTs showed that CP cannot significantly reduce mortality, some non-RCTs and case report(series) have found that CP may help patients improve clinical symptoms, clear the virus, and reduce mortality, especially for patients with COVID-19 within ten days of illness. We speculate that CP may be a possible treatment option. High-quality studies are needed for establishing stronger quality of evidence and pharmacists should also be actively involved in the CP treatment process and provide close pharmaceutical care.

Keywords: Convalescent plasma(CP); Coronavirus disease 2019(COVID-19); SARS-CoV-2.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • COVID-19 / drug therapy*
  • COVID-19 / therapy*
  • COVID-19 / virology
  • Humans
  • Immunization, Passive
  • Pandemics / prevention & control
  • Plasma / metabolism*
  • SARS-CoV-2 / drug effects


  • Antiviral Agents

Supplementary concepts

  • COVID-19 serotherapy