Blood donors will be given an antibody test as part of their regular screening process. Courtesy photos.

All blood donations to the American Red Cross over the next four months will be tested for COVID-19 antibodies according to a statement from the organization.

The organization tests donations for infectious diseases as part of the standard donation process but the antibody testing will be a new addition to the screening process with donors receiving their results directly from the Red Cross.

“As an organization dedicated to helping others, the Red Cross is pleased to provide more information about COVID-19 to our valued donors,” said Dr. Erin Goodhue, executive medical director of direct patient care with the Red Cross Biomedical Services. “If you are feeling healthy and well, please schedule an appointment to not only help saves lives but also learn about your potential exposure to COVID-19.”

The testing isn’t part of any government reporting system but officials said if a health agency makes a specific request for the data, the Red Cross will provide aggregated information that provides summaries without exposing individual health data.

Medical professions are currently researching the use of blood products containing antibodies for treating COVID-19.

Thousands of coronavirus patients in hospitals around the world have been treated with so-called convalescent plasma — including more than 20,000 in the U.S. — with little solid evidence so far that it makes a difference. One recent study from China was unclear while another from New York offered a hint of benefit.

When the body encounters a new germ, it makes proteins called antibodies that are specially targeted to fight the infection. The antibodies float in plasma — the yellowish, liquid part of blood.

Because it takes a few weeks for antibodies to form, the hope is that transfusing someone else’s antibodies could help patients fight the virus before their own immune system kicks in. One donation is typically divided into two or three treatments. Donations also can be combined into a high-dose product; manufacturer Grifols is producing doses of that “hyperimmune globulin” for a study expected to start next month.

And as more people survive COVID-19, there are increasing calls for them to donate plasma so there’s enough of a stockpile if it pans out. On Friday, U.S. health officials notified doctors that it doesn’t violate health privacy rules to track down prior COVID-19 patients and tell them about donation options.

Red Cross spokeswoman Christine Welch said the organization has been collecting plasma for the past few weeks from individuals who already knew they had the antibody. She said donors who discover they have the antibody through the program have the option to schedule the specialized plasma donation.

“This was done because we were receiving inquiries from the public,” she said. “This is designed to provide value to our donors and we’re always trying to raise awareness of donation.”

COVID-19 antibody test results will be available within 7-10 days in the Red Cross Blood Donor App or donor portal at RedCrossBlood.org. The test has been authorized for emergency use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

The test is not diagnostic and the Red Cross said a positive antibody test result does not confirm infection or immunity.

Donation appointments can be made by downloading the free Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org, calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) or enabling the Blood Donor Skill on any Alexa Echo device. Thanks to Amazon, all those who come to give June 1-30 will receive a $5 Amazon.com Gift Card via email.

Upcoming blood drives in Santa Monica

6/19/2020: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., CrossFit Santa Monica, 2433 Main St

6/20/2020: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter, 1450 11th St

6/22/2020: 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter, 1450 11th St

6/24/2020: 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter, 1450 11th St

6/25/2020: 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter, 1450 11th St

6/25/2020: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., YMCA, 1332 6th Street

6/27/2020: 9 a.m. – 3 p.m., American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter, 1450 11th St

6/29/2020: 1 p.m. – 7 p.m., American Red Cross Santa Monica Chapter, 1450 11th St

AP Medical Writer Lauran Neergaard contributed to this report