In Depth

UK hospital to trial blood plasma Covid-19 treatment

Using antibodies from recovered patients has been used to treat Ebola and Sars

A hospital in Wales is trialling a potential new treatment for coronavirus that could offer patients a “glimmer of hope”, experts say.

The University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff hopes to offer the plasma therapy as part of a study within a month.

Blood would be taken from people who have recovered from coronavirus and the plasma in that blood is then given to ill patients. It is thought that antibodies in the blood of previously infected patients could help others to fight the infection.

Dr Stuart Walker, medical director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, said: “At the moment there are no other treatments per se for the viral infection itself, so this does give us a glimmer of hope.

“When you have an illness like this you produce a response in the form of antibodies in the bloodstream. Those antibodies can potentially negate the effects of the virus in people who are suffering from it in a more severe way.”

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The BBC reports that Public Health Wales will identify and write to potential donors, with the plasma collected and processed by the Welsh Blood Service. “Donors will need to have tested positive for Covid-19 and now be fully recovered,” the report adds.

The broadcaster has also been told that other hospitals across the UK are also looking to trial the plasma treatment, with further announcements imminent.

According to Sky News, doctors have expressed frustration at the government for failing to approve trials for plasma therapy faster.

Trials are already under way in other countries including China, France, Germany and the US, the broadcaster adds.

Earlier this week, Dr Colin Hamilton-Davies, who heads the acute cardiac critical care unit at Bart’s Hospital in London, told Sky News: “We have a national health service and blood service that is the envy of the world, we have a very substantially-sized department of blood transfusion, and for people harvesting blood plasma, we could step it up within a week. 

“We could be administering it, not just to one or two people, but hundreds of patients.”

Plasma treatment has been used with some success for Ebola and Sars, according to the World Health Organization. However, there is no known effective treatment for Covid-19.

Dr Muhammad Munir, a molecular virologist at Lancaster University, added: “Plasma treatment is an interim solution and should be done at all costs because what we’re looking into is a vaccine for next year. The plasma is something we can offer and it is in our hands.”

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