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Passive Immunization May Slow Down SARS-CoV-2 and Boost Immunity in Patients, Buying Time Until Vaccines Are Developed

Using antibodies from recovered patients has been life-saving for other acute infections and should be explored in response to COVID-19, researchers say in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine

Amsterdam, NL – The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has infected more than 4 million people and killed close to 280,000.1 Finding a vaccine has become a global public health priority. However, creating a viable vaccine might take a long time; scientists estimate a vaccine may be available in between 12 and 18 months. A potential interim solution reported in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine may be a passive vaccine, or passive immummization (PI), which can provide instant, short-term fortification against infectious agents.

“Using valuable plasma from recovered patients might be useful in our global war against COVID-19,” explained Foad Alzoughool, PhD. He and his co-author, Lo’ai Alanagreh, PhD, both of the Department of Laboratory Medical Sciences, Faculty of Applied Medical Sciences, The Hashemite University, Jordan, have studied the application of PI in previous pandemics and conclude that this approach is a potential solution to address the immediate health threat of COVID-19.

After exposure to a viral infection, an individual’s body creates antibodies to fight off the virus. These antibodies in the blood of a recovered patient can be collected as convalescent plasma and transferred to the blood of a newly infected patient where it can neutralize the pathogen, eliminate it from the blood stream, and boost immunity. While PI does not provide long-term protection against the virus, it can reduce the aggressiveness and mortality of an infection. 

Caption: The convalescent plasma option for COVID-19 treatment. Credit: Lo’ai Alanagreh, PhD, The Hashemite University.

The use of PI immunization dates to the beginning of the twentieth century during the Spanish flu epidemic, when patients who received convalescent plasma serum had lower mortality rates than others. Experimental usage of PI during outbreaks of Ebola virus, chikungunya virus and the H1N1 flu also shows the potential of using PI in the prevention and treatment of viral infecitions.

There is evidence as well of the effectiveness of the PI technique in the SARS-CoV epidemic in  Guandong, China and the MERS-CoV in Saudi Arabia, particularly if it is introduced soon after symptom onset. In one report, patients who received PI had a significantly shorter hospital stay and lower mortality than other groups. In another, patients who received convalescent plasma before day 14 of illness had a higher discharge rate. Healthcare workers who were infected with SARS-CoV and failed to respond to treatment survived after transfusion with convalescent plasma. 

“If you are looking for COVID-19 treatment, you will find it in the blood of survivors,” said Dr. Alanagreah. “In a time when no registered antiviral drug or vaccine is available, PI might help in slowing down the deadly virus and save lives, particuarly for the elderly and patients with pre-existing conditions.”

More than 1.5 million people have recovered from the disease,2 and many of them would be willing to donate plasma to help slow down the pandemic. Dr. Alzoughool and Dr. Alanagreh noted, importantly, that practicing this method now will help health systems be prepared in case a second wave of disease occurs. 



1 Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard. World Health Organization. Accessed May 11, 2020.

2 Worldometer COVID-19 Coronavirus Pandemic. Accessed on May 11, 2020.

Full open access paper: “Coronavirus Drugs: Using Plasma from Recovered Patients as a Treatment for COVID-19” by Foad Alzoughool and Lo’ai Alanagreh (DOI: 10.3233/JRS-201017), published in the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine, Volume 31, Issue 2 (May 2020) by IOS Press. The article is openly available at:

Contact Diana Murray, IOS Press, +1 718-640-5678, for additional information. Journalists who wish to interview the authors should contact Foad Alzoughool at or Lo’ai Alanagreh at

About the International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine

The International Journal of Risk & Safety in Medicine: Patient Safety, Pharmacovigilance, Liability is concerned with rendering the practice of medicine as safe as it can be. That not only involves promoting the highest possible quality of care, but also examining how risks that are inevitable can be contained and managed. Each issue features a section on World Health Organization News (WHO). This affinity with WHO underlines both the international character of the journal and the subject matter covered.

About IOS Press

IOS Press is headquartered in Amsterdam with satellite offices in the USA, Germany, India and China and serves the information needs of scientific and medical communities worldwide. IOS Press now publishes more than 80 international peer-reviewed journals and about 75 book titles each year on subjects ranging from computer science, artificial intelligence, and engineering to medicine, neuroscience, and cancer research.