Iowa State partnering with LifeServe to test blood donations for COVID-19 antibodies


Iowa State engineers develop an at-home COVID-19 testing system.

Kylee Haueter

Iowa State University’s Research Laboratory will be partnering with LifeServe Blood Center this fall to test donated blood for COVID-19 antibodies.

According to a press release, this testing will “help understand the spread of the virus among the healthy population.”

Danielle West, director of public relations and marketing for LifeServe, said volunteer blood donors will receive a free COVID-19 antibody test as part of the regular process of blood donation.

“Positive test results will be provided to Iowa’s Public Health Department for further research and investigation to understand the impact of the virus among a healthy subset of the population,” West said.

One benefit of the testing is identifying individuals that have COVID-19 antibodies and would be willing to provide convalescent plasma, one treatment being used to help fight COVID-19 in critically ill patients.

The press release included a quote from Dr. Leyla Best, an infectious disease specialist at UnityPoint Health in Des Moines.

“Convalescent plasma is readily available to us when needed for our hospitalized patients and has also helped other patients around the country,” Best said. “The addition of antibody testing on all donors is a significant step in this continued care.”

While convalescent plasma is not an end-all cure to COVID-19, it can potentially help patients fight coronavirus.

Melanie Vorsten, Mary Greeley laboratory director, said convalescent plasma has been used in patients at Mary Greeley Medical Center and yielded positive results.

“At Mary Greeley, 91 patients have received COVID convalescent plasma as part of their treatment for COVID-19,” Vorsten said. “The antibodies in the plasma help boost the patient’s ability to fight the virus. We have seen the COVID convalescent plasma treatment lessen the severity or shorten the length of the disease. People who are able to donate COVID convalescent plasma are having a positive impact on our ability to treat COVID-19 patients.”

Those that donate their blood and get tested for the antibodies will be able to see their results online a week after their donation. This is not a way to test for active COVID-19 and if you are showing symptoms, you are not eligible to donate blood.

Those that have recovered from COVID-19 or have already tested positive for COVID-19 antibodies are encouraged to donate plasma by entering LifeServe’s plasma donation program.

LifeServe has put many safety precautions in place to protect donors and staff including requiring an appointment to donate. Walk-in donors will not be accepted. Appointments can be made online on LifeServe’s website or by calling (800) 287-4903.