Coronavirus latest: Thousands of Covid-19 survivors sign up for plasma trial that could save lives


NewsHealthThe first donations of the plasma have been collected and transfusions will begin in the coming weeks

Saturday, 2nd May 2020, 11:09 am

Updated Saturday, 2nd May 2020, 11:10 am

Thousands of Covid-19 survivors have registered to donate their blood plasma to see if it can help patients currently infected with the virus as the UK clinical trial begins.

The first donations of the plasma have been collected and transfusions will begin in “the coming weeks”, the hospital’s Biomedical Research Centre said in a statement.

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More than 6,500 people have registered their interest to take part in a UK trial. The BBC reports there is currently enough plasma to transfuse to 143 patients.

The clinical trial will help to determine if plasma collected from donors who have recovered from the illness, known as “convalescent plasma”, is an effective treatment for patients who are severely unwell with the illness. It was as an effective treatment during the Sars outbreak in 2002.

If the trials prove the treatment to be effective, NHS Blood and Transplant will begin a national programme to deliver up to 10,000 units of convalescent plasma per week to the NHS, enough to treat 5,000 patients each week.

Who can donate?

Plasma donation is not the same as blood donation. The process takes around 45 minutes because it separates plasma from the blood as you donate, in a process called apheresis.

Donors need to be between 17 and 66 years old, weigh more than 50 kilos and should be able to visit one of the main donor centres.

They also need to have fully recovered from Covid-19, so that their body has had time to develop a good antibody response.

Potential treatment

Matt Hancock gives plasma to new UK clinical trial for Covid-19 treatment (Photo: Matt Hancock/Twitter)

The trial is co-led by Dr Manu Shankar-Hari, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the hospital, along with experts from NHS Blood and Transplant and the University of Cambridge.

“As a new disease, there are no proven drugs to treat critically ill patients with Covid-19. Providing critically ill patients with plasma from patients who have recovered… could improve their chances of recovery,” said Dr Shankar-Hari.

Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock said: “This global pandemic is the biggest public health emergency this generation has faced and we are doing absolutely everything we can to beat it.

“The UK has world-leading life sciences and research sectors and I have every hope this treatment will be a major milestone in our fight against this disease.

“Hundreds of people are participating in national trials already for potential treatments and the scaling up of convalescent plasma collection means thousands could potentially benefit from it in the future.”

Additional reporting by Press Association

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