Iowans who donate blood through LifeServe Blood Center facilities can now also be tested for COVID-19 antibodies in an effort to help understand how the virus spreads — and to help those who are hospitalized by it.
LifeServe spokeswoman Danielle West says the test is looking for previous exposure to the virus from people who are now symptom-free. “We’re not testing for the active virus and we want to make sure that healthy donors are coming in,” West says. “If people feel sick, definitely we do not want them to come into the facility. We are testing antibodies through their blood to see if they have had the COVID-19 antibodies, which means at one time, they did have the COVID-19 virus.”
The antibody tests are being done by Iowa State University’s Research Laboratory for donors who consent. West says positive test results will be provided to the Iowa Department of Public Health for further research. That blood may also help patients afflicted with COVID-19 to recover more quickly.
West says, “If they donate a pint of blood and then we test it and find out that they were positive for the antibodies, we can actually use that plasma from their donation, create a convalescent plasma product that could go to a hospital patient right away.” She says the antibody test results will be available in a donor’s secure, online LifeServe Blood Center profile within five to seven days after their blood donation.
“A lot of people are interested to see if they have the antibodies because they say a lot of people are asymptomatic and may not even know if they have the virus and they’ve maybe never gotten tested,” West says. “So, if they’re interested to see if they have the antibodies or not, this is a good way to come and donate, help your community and find out if you have the antibodies or not.”
LifeServe is the only provider of blood and blood products to more than 120 hospitals in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota. To ensure a safe environment, blood donation appointments are required and walk-in donors cannot be accepted. LifeServe has donor centers in Ames, Des Moines, Fort Dodge, Mason City, Marshalltown, Sioux City, and Urbandale. Call 800-287-4903 or visit www.lifeservebloodcenter.org.