A clinical trial to establish if plasma from the blood of recovered coronavirus patients could help treat others fighting the illness has been given approval. Health secretary Matt Hancock said thousands of patients could potentially benefit from the treatment if it is deemed to work. Alongside the trial, the government said it is ramping up
Health secretary Matt Hancock said thousands of patients could potentially benefit from the treatment if it is deemed to work.
Alongside the trial, the government said it is ramping up the national collection of plasma so that, if the treatment is shown to be successful, it could be rolled out across the NHS.
It is aiming for enough plasma to treat 5,000 Covid-19 patients a week.
The treatment would involve the “convalescent plasma”, donated from the blood of people who have recovered from the virus, being transfused to patients who are struggling to produce their own antibodies against the illness.
Convalescent plasma was used as a treatment during the Sars outbreak.
Mr Hancock said: “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.”
Professor Jonathan Van Tam, deputy chief medical officer, said: “The UK is leading the world’s largest trials to find a treatment for Covid-19, with over 7,000 people so far involved testing a range of medicines; we hope to add convalescent plasma to this list shortly.
“Convalescent plasma has been used as an effective treatment for emerging infections in the past, and this step forward underpins our science-backed approach to fighting this virus.”
Health ministers in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland also welcomed the development and said they are pleased to be working with colleagues across the UK.
Explaining the 45-minute plasma collection process, the Department of Health said blood is taken from one arm and circulated through a machine that separates out the plasma, and the blood is then returned to the donor.
The NHS Blood and Transplant will contact people in England who have recovered and who might be able to donate, the department said.
People who have had a confirmed positive test result and who are willing to donate, can also provide their details through the NHS Blood and Transport website at http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk.