Since the start of the pandemic, the tissue donation in Catalonia (Spain) has decreased drastically. At the beginning of the lockdown (from March to May 2020) there was a drop of around 70% in donation of corneas and of approximately 90% in donation of placentas. Despite the fast updating of standard operating procedures, we had big difficulties in different points. For instance, in the availability of the transplant coordinator for the donor detection and evaluation, in obtaining the necessary PPE (personal protective equipment), or in the resources available in the quality control laboratories for screening. This, added to the collapse that hospitals suffered due to the large number of patients hospitalized each day, made donation levels slowly rebound.
In order to provide solutions to all patients, we tried to adapt quickly to these emerging changes.
In the case of corneas, we found a scenario that we had never had before. Although the cornea transplant plummeted at the beginning of the confinement (decreased by 60% compared to 2019), we run out of corneas -even for emergency situations- at the end of March.
This situation led us to develop a new type of therapeutic solution in our Eye Bank. The cryopreserved cornea for tectonic purposes is a tissue that is kept frozen at -196°C and can be preserved for up to 5 years. Therefore, it is a tissue that allows us to respond to possible emergencies in subsequent similar situations.
Regarding amniotic membrane for ocular care indications, the strategy was completely different. For this kind of tissue, we carried out an adaptation of our processing with two different purposes. On the one hand, to make sure that we could inactivate the SARS-CoV-2 virus, if it was there. On the other hand, to increase the donation of placentas. For this, changes in the transport medium and in the antibiotic cocktail were performed. In addition, an irradiation step was added to the final product.
Little by little, it seems that the donations of corneas and placentas have been recovering. However, it is necessary to think about future contingency strategies in case a stop in donation is repeated.
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