NHS calls on coronavirus survivors to donate blood as trials of pioneering plasma treatment begin

Plasma transfusions may help Covid-19 patients’ ‘speed of recovery and chances of survival’

Rory Sullivan
Monday 20 April 2020 14:18
Leading expert says 'many parts of country are probably just past the peak' of coronavirus

The UK is planning to collect blood from Covid-19 survivors in the hope that it could be used to treat patients with the disease.

It is thought that the antibodies present in a survivor’s blood may help coronavirus patients to recover from the illness.

Antibodies are created by the immune system in response to infection and are found in plasma, the liquid part of the blood.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) wants to trial plasma treatment and is looking to collect blood from those who have survived the disease.

It is hoped that plasma transfusions could help improve Covid-19 patients’ “speed of recovery and chances of survival”.

A spokesperson for NHSBT said: “NHS Blood and Transplant is preparing to collect Covid-19 convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from this illness.

“We envisage that this will be initially used in trials as a possible treatment for Covid-19.”

“We are working closely with the government and all relevant bodies to move through the approvals process as quickly as possible,” the spokesperson added.

Earlier this week, the University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff also announced intentions to trial plasma treatment.

Stuart Walker, the executive medical director for Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “We are very much looking forward to the first use of this treatment in patients at UHW.

“This offers a genuine therapeutic option for this potentially fatal condition.”

A spokesperson for the Cardiff and Vale University Health Board told The Independent that it aims to carry out trials “in the near future”.

Elsewhere, a major study into plasma transfusions is underway in the US.

Bruce Sachais, chief medical officer at the New York Blood Center, told the BBC: “People have been amazing. They keep coming out in droves.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of donors and we’ve been able to collect over 1,000 units already. It’s really heartwarming to see that for people who have gone through the infection, in various degrees, their main concern is ‘how can I now help others?’”

A small study in China, published in March, found that one dose of antibodies from the blood of Covid-19 survivors may have improved the symptoms of 10 severely ill patients.

In the UK, the NHS has told people to register if they would like to donate plasma blood and not to turn up at donation centres.

Additional reporting from Reuters 

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