Department of Clinical Therapeutics, School of Medicine, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, 11528 Athens, Greece. Department of Public Health Policy, School of Public Health, University of West Attica, 11521 Athens, Greece.
Background: While passive immunotherapy has been considered beneficial for patients with severe respiratory viral infections, the treatment of COVID-19 cases with convalescent plasma produced mixed results. Thus, there is a lack of certainty and consensus regarding its effectiveness. This meta-analysis aims to assess the role of convalescent plasma treatment on the clinical outcomes of COVID-19 patients enrolled in randomized controlled
trials (RCTs). Methods: A systematic search was conducted in the PubMed database (end-of-search: 29 December 2022) for RCTs on convalescent plasma therapy compared to supportive care\standard of care. Pooled relative risk (RR) and 95% confidence intervals were calculated with random-effects models. Subgroup and meta-regression analyses were also performed, in order to address heterogeneity and examine any potential association between the factors that varied, and the outcomes reported. The present meta-analysis was performed following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guidelines. Results: A total of 34 studies were included in the meta-analysis. Per overall analysis, convalescent plasma treatment was not associated with lower 28-day mortality [RR = 0.98, 95% CI (0.91, 1.06)] or improved 28-day secondary outcomes, such as hospital discharge [RR = 1.00, 95% CI (0.97, 1.03)], ICU-related or score-related outcomes, with effect estimates of RR = 1.00, 95% CI (0.98, 1.05) and RR = 1.06, 95% CI (0.95, 1.17), respectively. However, COVID-19 outpatients treated with convalescent plasma had a 26% less risk of requiring hospital care, when compared to those treated with the standard of care [RR = 0.74, 95% CI (0.56, 0.99)]. Regarding subgroup analyses, COVID-19 patients treated with convalescent plasma had an 8% lower risk of ICU-related disease progression when compared to those treated with the standard of care (with or without placebo or standard plasma infusions) [RR = 0.92, 95% CI (0.85, 0.99)] based on reported outcomes from RCTs carried out in Europe. Finally, convalescent plasma treatment was not associated with improved survival or clinical outcomes in the 14-day subgroup analyses. Conclusions: Outpatients with COVID-19 treated with convalescent plasma had a statistically significantly lower risk of requiring hospital care when compared to those treated with placebo or the standard of care. However, convalescent plasma treatment was not statistically associated with prolonged survival or improved clinical outcomes when compared to placebo or the standard of care, per overall analysis in hospitalized populations. This hints at potential benefits, when used early, to prevent progression to severe disease. Finally, convalescent plasma was significantly associated with better ICU-related outcomes in trials carried out in Europe. Well-designed prospective studies could clarify its potential benefit for specific subpopulations in the post-pandemic era.