Can Someone With Autoimmune Disease Donate Plasma?


Matthew McClain

Some individuals with autoimmune diseases may be able to donate their plasma, although their conditions do not permit them to donate blood. This is because the antibodies produced in people with these conditions can be used for research as scientists look for cures.

Autoimmune Diseases and Plasma Donation

For individuals living with autoimmune diseases, donating plasma can seem complicated. While some autoimmune conditions prevent blood donation altogether, plasma donation may be possible for certain diseases under the right circumstances.

Plasma is the liquid portion of blood that contains proteins and antibodies. Plasma donation involves collecting this blood component while returning other parts, like red blood cells, to the donor.

Many autoimmune diseases cause the body to mistakenly produce antibodies that attack healthy cells. These autoantibodies are present in high concentration in plasma.

Plasma centers are often interested in collecting plasma from donors with autoimmune conditions because their autoantibodies can be used for research purposes. Scientists study these antibodies to help develop new treatments.

However, autoimmune diseases also come with risks that must be considered to ensure donation safety. Centers evaluate donors on a case-by-case basis depending on their condition and current health status.

The screening process evaluates potential autoimmune donors for:

  • Severity of their disease and symptoms
  • Complications like organ damage
  • Current immunosuppressant or steroid use
  • Frequency of disease flare-ups

Based on screening, autoimmune donors may be:

Deferred indefinitely if their condition poses too high of a risk. This often applies to diseases with frequent flare-ups or organ involvement.

Approved but required to donate during disease remission when risks are lower. Some centers only accept donations between flare-ups.

Approved without restrictions if they have a well-managed mild disease and are otherwise healthy.

Overall, while individuals with autoimmune disease may donate plasma in many cases, centers take a cautious approach due to increased health risks. Proper screening and ongoing monitoring can help determine the safest way to utilize plasma from this donor population.

Screening Process for Donors

Plasma centers use a rigorous screening process to determine eligibility for autoimmune donors. The same screening used for all potential donors is applied, but with additional scrutiny for autoimmune conditions:

1. Health History Questionnaire

Donors complete a questionnaire detailing their medical history and current health status. It includes questions about autoimmune diagnoses, current symptoms, and treatment. Centers evaluate responses for potential red flags that could disqualify donors or require disease stability.

2. Physical Exam

A physical exam evaluates donors’ general health and assesses for signs of active autoimmune disease or related complications. physical indicators of unstable disease can lead to deferral.

3. Blood Tests

A series of mandatory blood tests screens for infections like hepatitis and HIV that would prevent donation. Additional autoantibody screening may be performed depending on an individual’s condition. Any abnormalities must be evaluated to ensure plasma safety.

4. Disease Stability Requirements

Some donors must demonstrate disease stability for a specified period before donating, such as 6 months of remission for certain autoimmune conditions. Longer remission indicates reduced risks.

5. Monitoring During Donation

Once approved, autoimmune donors are often monitored more closely during donations. Centers may require more frequent health updates and blood work to promptly detect signs of instability.

Conditions That Disqualify Donors

Autoimmune diseases that tend to disqualify donors include those with:

  • Frequent Flare-Ups: Conditions with unstable or relapsing-remitting courses pose higher risks. This often includes lupus, multiple sclerosis and inflammatory bowel disease. Donors may only qualify if in remission.
  • Organ Involvement: Diseases that affect major organs indicate increased severity and decline. This applies to many late-stage cases of lupus and rheumatoid arthritis that damage organs like the kidneys and heart.
  • Immune System Medication: Immunosuppressants lower immune response but raise infection risks, so individuals taking them rarely qualify to donate plasma. This includes many on drugs for rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory conditions.

Conditions That May Permit Donation

Autoimmune diseases where donors may qualify under proper screening include those with:

  • Limited Symptoms: Mild conditions with few or no active symptoms indicate lower risks. This applies to some with celiac disease, hypothyroidism from Hashimoto’s and vitiligo.
  • Stable Disease Courses: Diseases with long remission periods or few flare-ups suggest stability. This can include some cases of Hashimoto’s, Graves’ disease, and celiac disease that are well controlled.
  • Proper Medication: Individuals managing their condition through means other than immunosuppressants may qualify. This includes donorson biologics, steroids or other targeted therapies.

However, centers evaluate all potential autoimmune donors rigorously on a case-by-case basis. Even donors with the above traits may be deferred depending on their specific condition, medical history and screening results.

Uses for Plasma From Autoimmune Donors

Plasma centers utilize donations from individuals with autoimmune conditions in several ways:

1. Research Studies

Plasma is used in research studies attempting to identify the antibodies responsible for specific autoimmune diseases. The goal is to better understand disease mechanisms.

2. Diagnostic Testing

Plasma autoantibodies can aid diagnostic testing for autoimmune diseases and help distinguish between different conditions with overlapping symptoms.

3. Treatment Development

Researchers use plasma autoantibodies to develop and test new treatments for autoimmune diseases. This includes targeted biologic therapies as well as potential immunotherapies aimed at modifying the immune system.

Donating plasma allows individuals with autoimmune disease to contribute to scientific efforts seeking new therapies and cures for their conditions. Researchers are highly interested in plasma containing disease-specific autoantibodies to aid these initiatives.

Risks and Precautions

While plasma donation may benefit research, centers take precautions due to risks for autoimmune donors:

1. Potential Aggravation

The plasma donation process could potentially aggravate unstable autoimmune diseases. Fluids loss, stress and immune system changes have been tied to disease exacerbations in some cases. Centers screen thoroughly to avoid this.

2. Infection Risks

People with autoimmune conditions often face higher susceptibility to infections due to weakened immune systems. Though centers screen for transfusion risks, autoimmune donors may require additional precautions.

3. Reaction Risks

As with all donors, autoimmune individuals face minimal risks of adverse reactions to plasma donation. But centers monitor these donors closely during and after donations.

4. Transmission Risks

Though very rare, centers take precautions to ensure plasma from autoimmune donors does not transmit their conditions to recipients. This possibility is considered remote with proper screening.

Overall, while risks for autoimmune donors are relatively low, centers aim to minimize potential complications through strict eligibility criteria, ongoing monitoring and focused precautions for at-risk donors. The plasma is only utilized when risks are carefully weighed and determined acceptable.

In conclusion, while some autoimmune conditions limit plasma donation, others allow for safe donation under strict criteria. With thorough screening, ongoing monitoring and focused precautions, select individuals with well-managed autoimmune disorders can donate plasma to aid research and treatment development.
Centers consider each donor on a case-by-case basis, excluding those with raised risks while utilizing plasma that could benefit scientific initiatives.


1. Can you donate plasma with an autoimmune disease?

Some individuals may qualify depending on their specific condition, disease management and screening results.

2. Which autoimmune diseases prevent plasma donation?

Those with frequent flares, organ involvement or those taking immunosuppressants often cannot donate.

3. Will my autoimmune plasma be used?

Yes! Plasma from autoimmune donors is valuable for research studying disease mechanisms and developing new treatments.

4. What precautions do centers take for autoimmune plasma?

Centers monitor autoimmune donors closely and screen thoroughly to minimize risks for donation exacerbating disease.

5. How is plasma from autoimmune donors used?

The plasma is used for research studies, diagnostic testing and treatment development initiatives for autoimmune diseases.

6. Can autoimmune diseases be transmitted through plasma?

Transmission through plasma is considered extremely unlikely with proper screening and testing. However, centers take precautions.

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