Many who depend on immune globulin therapy to treat their autoimmune or primary immune deficiency disease wonder about the presence of antibodies against COVID-19 in the IG products they use. If so, they want to know if it’s possible that these antibodies might protect them against this deadly infection.
To find out, we contacted one of the manufacturers we work with: Octapharma, which produces Octagam, Panzyga, and Cutaquig.
The company ran a study in which they tested their IVIG and SCIG products derived from donated plasm they collected in the United States to see if they contained antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19. The testing was done from the end of 2020 through June 2021 and tested to see if these antibodies could react to and neutralize the virus.
They found that their IG products do indeed contain antibodies to SARS-CoV-2, and they do have the ability to neutralize the virus. They also found that concentrations of these antibodies increased over the time of the study, probably as a result of increasing numbers of donors who had been infected or vaccinated before donating their plasma.
According to the company spokesperson, “The increasing levels of SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in Octapharma IVIG and SCIG products indicate that a certain level of protection could be possible against COVID-19 in patients…who are receiving standard IG therapy.”
Given these results, it’s likely that other brands of IG also contain some level of COVID antibodies as well. In fact, a similar study conducted by Takeda evaluated SARS-CoV-2 antibodies in their product, Gammagard Liquid, and found similar results.
Researchers from both studies expect COVID antibodies to continue to increase in the plasma supply as more donors are exposed to or vaccinated against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. They went on to predict that, given the six-month lead time from plasma collection to release of the IG product, IG users can expect a similar level of antibodies as that found in convalescent plasma (that is, plasma donated by individuals who have recently recovered from COVID) by summer 2021.
We want to stress, however, that it is impossible to know at what levels SARS-CoV-2 antibodies may be present in any given dose of IG. It is also unclear exactly how high plasma antibody levels would need to be in order to provide COVID protection to primary immune deficient or autoimmune patients through IG therapy.
Therefore, immune globulin therapy should not be considered a source of protection against COVID infection. According to the CDC, vaccination against SARS-CoV-2 remains the best way to avoid severe disease and hospitalization.