Covid-19 | UK

Coronavirus UK: Covid-19 plasma trial begins

Thousands of coronavirus survivors across the UK have signed up to donate blood plasma as part of a nation-wide clinical trial

Coronavirus UK: Covid-19 plasma trial begins
Alexander Hassenstein Getty Images

Plasma makes up around half of your blood volume and the process of extracting it, called apheresis, takes around 45 minutes.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock, who was one of a number of MPs to have contracted and recovered from the virus, was an earlier donor to the study. He described the process as “painless” and stressed the potential that it has to save lives.

“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.”

Plasma treatment during SARS outbreak

During the SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome) outbreak of 2003 scientists found that convalescent plasma was an effective treatment for sufferers. COVID-19 has proved to be far more dangerous than SARS but both are categorised as a coronavirus, so scientists hope that the treatment will have a similar effect on this latest outbreak.

The UK government is now increasing its plasma-collecting capacity across the UK so it can be rolled out immediately if the trial is successful. The trial involves hospitals in all four nations and is joint-led by Dr Manu Shankar-Hari, a critical care consultant at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust in London.

A phlebotomist shows to the camera specimens of people getting tested for coronavirus antibodies at the Refuah Health Center on April 24, 2020 in Spring Valley, New York

Dr Shankar-Hari said the trial would hopefully provide an effective treatment for the new virus which “none of us have any protection in the immune system against”.

"What we are doing with this trial is to give you instantaneous protection against the virus using an antibody that is developed by patients who recover from the virus.

"So the hope is that the viral clearance or the taking away of the virus in the body will be quicker by giving this treatment."

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