The DHR Health Institute for Research & Development in Edinburg is urging local COVID-19 survivors to step forward and donate plasma, a component of blood that contains specific antibodies which can help others fight the virus.

Over the weekend, the regional and national supply of plasma from the Type O blood group ran out, according to DHR research center President and CEO Dr. Sohail Rao. He said a majority of the Rio Grande Valley’s population — around 70% — have Type O blood.

Fortunately, people with Type O can receive plasma transfusions from donations of any blood type. People with Type A, AB or B are relatively rare, and can only receive transfusions from the same group.

“The problem is that we are depleting our relatively rare blood group, such as those who are blood Type A, AB or B,” he said. “… So right now we are having some serious difficulty in fulfilling the request for patients who (are in) blood group O.”

As of Friday, the region’s stock of blood Type O plasma ran out, 2,536 people with severe COVID-19 symptoms have been treated with plasma transfusions, according to Rao.

The antibodies needed to help others suffering from COVID-19 can only be found in virus survivors. People of all blood types are encouraged to donate, though donations from individuals with Type O are in dire need.

A plasma donation, a process that takes around 45 minutes, can treat around two to three patients. Survivors can donate every three weeks.

Rao emphasized there are only two approved treatments for COVID-19 so far: plasma transfusions and remdesivir, a drug that is being widely used.

“These are the only two elements of hope that exist for patients suffering from moderate to severe COVID-19 symptoms right now,” he said. “So it is extremely important that people who have recovered from the COVID-19 infection to pay it forward and help these patients.”

COVID-19 survivors seeking to donate plasma should call the center at (956) 362-2390.