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07.05.20

Convalescent plasma transfusions take place for Covid-19 patients

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) has supplied the first units of convalescent plasma to hospitals to treat coronavirus patients, with the first transfusions having now taken place.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust and University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust so far have received 14 units of convalescent plasma.

The first transfusions have since been carried out, though with the process still at its early stage of trials the effectiveness of plasma treatment in Covid-19 patients is not yet known. At present, not all 14 units have yet been transfused and more hospitals around the country will be taking part in the trials in coming months.

While uncertain if convalescent plasma transfusions will be successful against coronavirus, experts are hopeful after the treatment showed positive signs as an antiviral treatment when used during previous outbreaks of other coronaviruses, including the 2002 SARS outbreak.

Convalescent plasma is the antibody-rich plasma of people who have since recovered from Covid-19, which is extracted from donated blood and given to people who are struggling to develop an immune response to the illness, with aims it could assist the patient’s own immune system in producing the necessary antibodies to combat the Covid-19 virus.

Gail Miflin, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “We’re delighted the first patients are receiving convalescent plasma transfusions thanks to the generosity of our donors.

“We’re carrying out a clinical trial to see how effective transfusions are and we wish every patient well.

“Several hospitals are already taking part and this number will quickly grow as more people become eligible to donate plasma.

“Plasmapheresis donation is new to NHSBT but we’re quickly increasing appointments and we’ve taken more than 400 donations so far. We’re rapidly building collection capacity so that if our trial shows the transfusions are effective, we can supply hospitals at a large scale.

“We are collecting in nine cities at the moment and we’re expanding to all 23 of our donor centres, and some new venues in large cities.

“We’re using NHS data to contact people with a positive test result who live near our donor centres. People who have recovered can also give us their details at the NHSBT website.

“Plasma donation is safe and easy and you could save lives – if you get the call, please donate.”

The initial transfusions will be done through the ongoing international REMAP-CAP trial, which was created to evaluate a number of treatment options to the current coronavirus pandemic simultaneously. The NHSBT Clinical Trials Unit is working in collaboration with the main REMAP-CAP team to deliver the convalescent plasma domain of REMAP-CAP in the UK.

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