latest health care news

27.04.20

Clinical trial approved for plasma treatment to assist Covid-19 patients

A clinical trial has been given approval to determine if a treatment involving donated plasma can support coronavirus patients, with plans to scale up a national programme to deliver up to 10,000 units of plasma a week to the NHS if proven effective.

As part of the treatment, patients battling the virus would be given plasma donated by those who have recovered from Covid-19, known as ‘convalescent plasma’, with the thought being it could help those struggling to produce their own antibodies against the virus.

In parallel with the trial, the government is scaling up the national programme for collecting plasma so the treatment can be widely rolled out if it is shown to be effective. The collection of plasma would be ramped up throughout the remainder of April and May, with the aim to reach a capacity of up to 10,000 units of convalescent plasma delivered to the NHS every week.

That would provide the NHS enough to treat up to 5,000 severely ill Covid-19 patients per week.

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.”

READ MORE: World’s largest potential coronavirus treatments trial rolled out in UK

Dr Gail Miflin, Chief Medical Officer of NHS Blood and Transplant, added: “As well as continuing to collect enough blood throughout this outbreak, we are also heavily involved in the national research response including major trials of this potential treatment.

“We are rapidly building our capability to collect plasma so that we can quickly move into supplying hospitals at scale, should the proposed trial demonstrate patient benefit.”

NHS Blood and Transplant will contact people in England who have recovered from confirmed Covid-19 infections and could be a possible plasma donor, with the plasma collected at their centres. Blood will be taken from donors from one arm, which is circulated through a machine that separates out the plasma, and returned into the other arm. The process takes about 45 minutes and provides two units of plasma per donation, which can also be frozen and stored ahead for any future need.

Convalescent plasma was shown to be an effective treatment during the SARS outbreak, a different viral infection from the same coronavirus family.

If people have a confirmed positive test result and they are willing to donate, they can also provide details through NHSBT’s website.

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