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New trial seeks to improve survival rates for patients with COVID-19

A new trial is taking place at Addenbrooke’s Hospital to test whether COVID-19 patients with weak immune systems have a better chance of survival if they are injected with plasma from people who have successfully recovered from the virus.

The trial will examine whether antibody rich plasma, known as ‘convalescent plasma’ can be given to people who are struggling to develop an immune response to the illness. Scientists want to discover whether this treatment would improve a COVID-19 patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. 

The clinical trial is being run nationally by NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT). Although there is some evidence of patient benefit, it will seek to confirm the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma transfusions.

Convalescent plasma is a promising treatment which could help patients whose immune systems aren’t producing enough antibodies. It is given to patients with Covid-19 via a transfusion if they are receiving treatment, or likely to receive treatment, in the intensive care unit.

Prof David Menon, from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, who is one of the principal investigators for the trial.

By taking part in this national trial, we are helping understand whether convalescent plasma should be widely used to treat serious Covid.

If successful, the plasma has the added benefit of being freezable, so donations can be stockpiled ahead of a potential second wave.

Plasma is being collected from people who have recovered from Covid-19 by NHS Blood and Transplant at its blood donor centres nationwide. It is then being distributed to hospitals around the country.

Anyone who has received a positive test result or had symptoms of Covid-19 can register to donate using a form on the NHSBT website, or visit their local blood donor centre. In Cambridge this is located on Long Road.

NHSBT particularly wants to hear from recovered patients who needed hospital treatment, or who are male, or who are aged over 35, as people in one of these three groups are more likely to have high antibody levels.

Donating plasma takes about 45 minutes, during which time volunteers can sit back and relax. Afterwards they can get on with their normal day. 

The body usually replaces the plasma donated in 24-48 hours and the immune system will quickly replace any antibodies. This means people can donate plasma as often as every two weeks.

An NHS Blood and Transplant spokesperson said: “We thank everyone who is donating convalescent plasma and we hope this treatment proves to be of benefit to patients at Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

Plasma donation is safe and easy and you could save lives. You’ll also be playing a part in world-leading research and treatment. If you get the call, please donate.

Results of the trial are expected in the late summer.