• Italy’s high infection rate may mean they have more people able to donate plasma to help treat people severely suffering from COVID-19, according to CNN.
  • Several studies have shown that antibodies in plasma from recovered patients or people who were infected with the virus could be successful at treating severe coronavirus patients. 
  • However, an effective antibody test has yet to be developed. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Italy is looking for a silver lining, after being the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in Europe with over 165,000 infections.

According to CNN, the country that now has the highest death toll is hoping to use antibodies from those who recovered from COVID-19 to treat those still battling the virus. 

A doctor told CNN that the high number of infections means there are more people who can donate plasma. 

“Good can come out of this. We had such a huge outbreak, [that] now we have many potential donors,” Fausto Baldanti told CNN. 

Business Insider previously reported that donor blood plasma from a recovered patient was being tested as a possible coronavirus treatment. The antibodies in the plasma could help fight against the virus in a patient’s body. 

According to CNN, the use of plasma or even whole blood from recovered patients has been used to treated patients with other illnesses. 

According to Business Insider, two recent studies of plasma from people who recovered from COVID-19 used to treat those still severely ill with the virus have been promising.

Baldanti is a virologist at the University of Pavia San Matteo Hospital, in the Lombardy region of Italy. Lombardy was the epicenter of Italy’s outbreak and accounts for the most infections and deaths. At one point the region pulled doctors out of retirement and asked to have nurses close to finishing their degrees graduate early to help with the influx of cases. 

Baldanti told CNN he hopes “this plasma treatment can be crucial for controlling the infection in patients admitted to intensive care units,” but the treatment is only in an experimental phase in the country.

How helpful largely depends on developers creating a reliable and proven way to test for coronavirus antibodies, according to CNN. 

According to Business Insider, several companies including Abbott have launched new antibody tests that they aim to make available in the near future.

CNN reported that the Food and Drug Administration recently tightened restrictions on antibody tests in the US after previous relaxed rules caused low-quality tests. 

In Italy, Giancarlo Maria Liumbruno, the director-general of the Italian National Blood Center is looking to have an antibody test available in weeks. 

“We should have a serological exam (blood test) that is approved to test if someone has antibodies by the end of April. We will start selecting the first donors by the end of the month,” Liumbruno told CNN. 

However, trials of this process have already started in some hospitals in northern Italy. Plasma from patients who recovered and tested negative for at least two weeks is used on those still battling COVID-19. 

Italy has more than 1.7 million blood donors that the country could screen to see if they’ve had COVID-19 and now have antibodies that could fight the virus, Liumbruno told CNN. 

Their goal is to have repeat volunteers with antibodies donate plasma that could be used. Scientists would screen to see who is best to have their plasma used. 

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