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A consultant haematologist at the Churchill Hospital is co-leading a major programme to collect convalescent plasma from people who have recovered from COVID-19 to support a national clinical trial. University of Oxford Professor David Roberts, who is also Associate Medical Director, NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) will be looking at whether transfusion of antibody-containing plasma from recovered patients can be an effective treatment against COVID-19, as it has been for other viral diseases.

The trial, which was announced on 25 April by the Department of Health and Social Care, will investigate whether plasma transfusions could improve a COVID-19 patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. The transfusions will be done through the existing REMAP-CAP trial and further trial options are being explored.

Convalescent plasma, which is taken from people who have recovered from an infection, may contain antibodies that their immune systems have produced in fighting the virus. That plasma can be transfused to patients whose immune systems are struggling to develop their own antibodies.

The trials will investigate whether transfusions may improve a patient’s speed of recovery and chances of survival. Plasma can also be collected and frozen ahead of any second wave of COVID-19. Although there is some evidence of patient benefit from the use of convalescent plasma in COVID-19, the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma transfusions needs to be confirmed by a robust clinical trial. Professor Roberts said: “In previous flu and coronavirus epidemics, some reports suggested antibodies from donors who had recovered from the disease could be used to treat acutely ill patients. “We are investigating whether this plasma can improve survival and reduce ventilation and intensive care unit stay in COVID-19 patients. This is an exciting development as there is no proven treatment for COVID-19.”

Read more about the trial on the NHS Blood and Transplant website.