Coronavirus: Blood plasma treatment trial begins in UK

Coronavirus: Blood plasma treatment trial begins in UK
A possible treatment for COVID-19 using plasma from patients who have recovered from the virus is being trialed at London’s Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 02 May 2020

Coronavirus: Blood plasma treatment trial begins in UK

Coronavirus: Blood plasma treatment trial begins in UK
  • Blood is taken from one arm and circulated through a machine that separates out the plasma, and is then returned to the donor
  • Donating takes about 45 minutes, and provides two units of plasma per donation

LONDON: A possible treatment for COVID-19 using plasma from patients who have recovered from the virus is being trialed at London’s Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospital.
The treatment, known as convalescent plasma, involves blood plasma donations from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 being transfused into coronavirus patients whose bodies are not producing enough of their own antibodies against the virus, the hospital’s website explained.
“Convalescent plasma is a promising treatment that could help patients whose bodies aren’t producing enough antibodies to curb the disease,” said Dr. Manu Shankar-Hari, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the hospital who is co-leading the trial with experts from NHS (National Health Service) Blood and Transplant and the University of Cambridge.
“This trial will help us understand whether the treatment should be used more widely to treat COVID-19.”
Blood is taken from one arm and circulated through a machine that separates out the plasma, and is then returned to the donor. Donating takes about 45 minutes, and provides two units of plasma per donation.
“We are rapidly building our capability to collect plasma so that we can quickly move into supplying hospitals at scale, should the trial demonstrate patient benefit,” said Dr. Gail Miflin, chief medical officer at NHS Blood and Transplant. 
Meanwhile, researchers at Nottingham University are developing a COVID-19 vaccine by modifying an existing cancer therapy, The Times newspaper reported.
The vaccine, trials for which may be held in the autumn, will focus on stimulating components of the immune system called T-cells, which scientists suspect hold the key to longer-term immunity. 
A professor of cancer immunotherapy at the university has developed a technique where DNA is injected into patients to create T-cells that recognize and destroy cancer cells.
Prof. Lindy Durrant and her team are modifying this technique to produce T-cells that attack and kill cells that have been infiltrated.
“Most vaccines stimulate strong neutralising antibodies but weak T-cell responses,” Durrant told The Times. “Although this is good enough for many viruses, for coronaviruses it seems that strong T-cell responses are also required.”