Finding out if you’ve had the coronavirus gives more than just peace of mind – it may also safe lives. One Bristol man’s test results inspired him to donate blood plasma to help treat critical patients with the disease.
If you’re not a key worker, it’s hard to feel helpful in a global pandemic.
But 48-year-old Nick from Bristol, unexpectedly discovered he could make a big difference after taking a coronavirus antibody test.
Nick had been poorly with coronavirus symptoms early in the year, but hadn’t been tested at the time. So, while he always suspected he’d had the virus, he could never be sure.
“I volunteered to be a beta tester with Blok BioScience and took one of the first available rapid antibody tests in the UK. I’d had symptoms following exposure to someone who had actually tested positive for COVID-19, so I was fairly convinced I’d had it but couldn’t be sure until I took the antibody test.”
Antibody tests and health awareness
Nick’s finger-prick antibody test was positive for the long-term IgG COVID-19 antibody, indicating he’d had the virus in the past, had recovered, and that his body was still producing protective antibodies against the infection.
“I was really comforted to discover that my suspicions were correct and that I did in fact have antibodies to COVID-19,” he said.
“As well as making me feel quite reassured that I probably have at least some level of resistance against getting it again (albeit no one exactly knows how much!), I feel pleased that my immune system dealt with the infection so well. Afterwards I felt frustrated that I could do nothing with this knowledge – or so I thought.”
He talked about the issue with a neighbour, who’s a blood nurse at a Bristol hospital.
“We spoke about the shortage of blood plasma with COVID-19 antibodies, particularly in the South West where infection rates have been low. I therefore decided to do something helpful with what I’d discovered. I donated blood plasma at the end of August and subsequently found out I have the required antibody levels to enable them to use the plasma to treat ICU patients.”
Convalescent plasma donations could potentially save lives
Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that contains the antibodies to infections you’ve been exposed to. According to the NHS, ‘Convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich plasma of someone who was recovered from a virus, in this case COVID-19.’
It can be transfused into severely ill coronavirus patients, whose own immune systems are struggling to fight the disease. Though it’s early days, global studies suggest this could significantly improve outcomes for these patients.
The NHS is running two clinical trials, using blood plasma from those who’ve recovered from COVID-19. They are actively recruiting people who have recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood plasma for its clinical trials – particularly ahead of a feared second wave.
Of his experience, Nick said: “Whilst the process is longer and a different feeling to donating blood (45 minutes), it felt psychologically amazing (and if I’m honest, a tad emotional) to be able to do something genuinely helpful with my new awareness about my own health.
Testing allows anyone to help fight COVID-19
“I’m so pleased I took the antibody test and found out I could do this, and I would recommend everyone regularly checked to see if they’ve had it and have the antibodies. The more people know, the more we can offer our help to the doctors and researchers doing their best to battle this pandemic.”
Blok BioScience’s behavioural economist Yolanda Berry commented: “We have all felt at the mercy of this infection. It’s an enemy we can’t see, and don’t know if we can fight it. Nick was able to confirm that he had the virus, and then was able to further take control by donating his plasma to those who are fighting for their lives.
“Many people and companies feel like they just don’t want to know. But with this knowledge, you too might be able to save lives and further the science and research along, so we can all feel safer again, and get on with that ‘new normal’.”
Blok BioScience is a COVID-19 specialist biotech company working on an ambitious programme that combines effective and widespread coronavirus testing, with a tech platform aimed at getting businesses and the public back to normal as quickly and safely as possible. Blok BioScience is currently offering antibody testing at various sites around the UK. Check BlokTesting.com to find one local to you.