Introduction: Evidence that supports the use of COVID-19 convalescent plasma (CCP) for treatment of COVID-19 is increasingly emerging. However, very few African countries have undertaken the collection and processing of CCP. The aim of this study was to assess the feasibility of collecting and processing of CCP, in preparation for a randomized clinical trial of CCP for treatment of COVID-19 in Uganda.
Methods: In a cross-sectional study, persons with documented evidence of recovery from COVID-19 in Uganda were contacted and screened for blood donation via telephone calls. Those found eligible were asked to come to the blood donation centre for further screening and consent. Whole blood collection was undertaken from which plasma was processed. Plasma was tested for transfusion transmissible infections (TTIs) and anti-SARS CoV-2 antibody titers. SARS-CoV-2 testing was also done on nasopharyngeal swabs from the donors.
Results: 192 participants were contacted of whom 179 (93.2%) were eligible to donate. Of the 179 eligible, 23 (12.8%) were not willing to donate and reasons given included: having no time 7(30.4%), fear of being retained at the COVID-19 treatment center 10 (43.5%), fear of stigma in the community 1 (4.3%), phobia for donating blood 1 (4.3%), religious issues 1 (4.4%), lack of interest 2 (8.7%) and transport challenges 1 (4.3%). The median age was 30 years and females accounted for 3.7% of the donors. A total of 30 (18.5%) donors tested positive for different TTIs. Antibody titer testing demonstrated titers of more than 1:320 for all the 72 samples tested. Age greater than 46 years and female gender were associated with higher titers though not statistically significant.
Conclusion: CCP collection and processing is possible in Uganda. However, concerns about stigma and lack of time, interest or transport need to be addressed in order to maximize donations.