Since the introduction of antibody testing after the early stages of the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic, there has been a significant increase in the proportion of first-time blood donors in the United States, according to a research letter published in JAMA.

The COVID-19 pandemic and the associated severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) has led to challenges associated with blood supply. Data suggest that supplies of blood for medical use are not sufficient for meeting patient needs. In an effort to meet these needs, some organizations have started offering testing for SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in donated samples. For this study, researchers evaluated whether donor characteristics and the reactivity of donated blood have changed since organizations have begun offering such testing.

Data from 953,926 donors were evaluated; the authors investigated any change in first-time donations in the 2 weeks preceding SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing and for more than 2 months thereafter. Overall, 17,336 donations (1.82%) were reactive; 160,328 donors (16.81%) were first-time donors, 524,607 donors (54.99%) were women, and 861,863 (90.35%) were non-Hispanic White. The largest donating age group was 55 years or older (426,469 donors; 44.71%), while the smallest was 16 to 17 (8375; 0.88%).

Prior to the SARS-CoV-2 antibody testing period evaluated, 11% of individuals were first-time donors, compared with 17% thereafter (P <.001).


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Multivariate analysis suggested that compared with donors aged 55 years or older, reactivity was more common in donors aged 18 to 24 (odds ratio [OR], 2.43; P <.001). Compared with non-Hispanic White donors, reactivity was more common in African American donors (OR, 2.58; P <.001) and Hispanic donors (OR, 2.31; P <.001).

Over the investigated period, reactivity rates increased from 1.18% to 2.58% (P <.001), though donations from the Northeast did not see a significant rise in reactivity.

“This study found that, after the introduction of antibody testing, the proportion of first-time donors increased, and donations from younger and racial and ethnic minority donors were more likely to be reactive,” the authors wrote. “This increase may be due to donors with higher rates of prior exposure donating to obtain antibody test results, particularly first-time donors, but may also reflect increased exposure in the general population or increased recognition of the need for convalescent plasma.”

Reference

Dodd RY, Xu M, Stramer SL. Change in donor characteristics and antibodies to SARS-CoV-2 in donated blood in the US, June-August 2020. JAMA. Published online September 14, 2020. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.18598