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Lesson Plans

How plasma therapy may help COVID-19 patients

May 28, 2020

Full Lesson




Directions: Read the key terms and summary; then watch the video and answer the discussion questions. The video has been edited for length. To watch the video in its entirety or read the transcript, click here.


Key terms:

  • plasma = the fluid that carries the components of the blood throughout the body; the largest part of a person’s blood
  • antibodies = the presence of antibodies makes it clear the patient once had COVID

Summary: With researchers around the world racing to develop a vaccine for COVID-19, attention is increasingly turning to a potential stop-gap measure—convalescent plasma (convalescent plasma = plasma with coronavirus antibodies, the immune system’s natural response to the infection, that helps fight viruses). 

  • Donated by the growing number of COVID-19 survivors, plasma contains antibodies. Some COVID patients who have been given convalescent plasma appear to show signs of recovery. However, researchers in labs and hospitals are still studying the potential effects of plasma therapy.
  • The use of plasma to heal is not a new idea. Scientists used convalescent plasma successfully during the Spanish flu of 1918 and the Asian flu. It was not successful for Ebola in 2014. 

Discussion questions:

  1. Essential question: How do scientists find treatments for novel diseases such as COVID-19?
  2. Why might the idea to use convalescent plasma be an important development in treating COVID-19?
  3. How have scientists studied past outbreaks to propose treatment options for COVID-19?
  4. Would you consider donating blood? Why are some potential volunteers afraid to give blood? If convalescent plasma therapy proves effective, how do you think authorities can encourage volunteers to donate their plasma?
  5. Media literacy: What viewpoints were represented in the story? Who else would you have interviewed for the piece? 


Extension activity

Read more about the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic using the NewsHour article, “Have Americans forgotten the history of this deadly flu?” Ask your students what Kenneth C. Davis, author and historian, means when he discusses the ramifications of those who deny science:

“We have erected enormous guardrails around the world through international cooperation, the World Health Organization, perhaps one of the most effective parts of the United Nations. Those guardrails are weakened when we deny science, when we ignore sound medical advice for short-term political considerations.

Those things all factored into the spread of the Spanish flu 100 years ago, and those are things that could happen again today, if we weaken our defenses at the CDC, if we weaken our defenses in terms of cooperating with foreign governments about sharing information about viruses.”

Today’s Daily News Story was written by Yareni Murillo, a senior at Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Virginia, with EXTRA’s Victoria Pasquantonio.


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Media literacy education

What is media literacy?

Media literacy is the ability to access, evaluate and create all types of media, including news media.

All of NewsHour Classroom's resources contain lessons in media literacy, including questions like who produced the piece and what do you know about them?

Start by evaluating this video introducing NewsHour Classroom here.