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Covid-19 trial at Addenbrooke’s will test if donated plasma improves survival chances of those with weak immune systems

A new trial is under way 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.

Antibody-rich plasma, known as ‘convalescent plasma’, will be given to people who are struggling to develop an immune response to the virus during the trial, which run nationally by NHS Blood and Transplant.

People who have had Covid-19 can now donate their blood plasma to help others
People who have had Covid-19 can now donate their blood plasma to help others

There is already some evidence of patient benefit, but the trial will seek to confirm the safety and effectiveness of convalescent plasma transfusions.

Prof David Menon, from Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, one of the principal investigators for the trial, said: “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.

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

Plasma can be frozen, so donations could be stockpiled ahead of a potential second wave.

It is being collected from people who have recovered from Covid-19 by NHS Blood and Transplant at blood donor centres for distribution to hospitals.

Anyone who has received a positive test result or symptoms of Covid-19 can register to donate using a form at nhsbt.nhs.uk or visit blood donor centres such as the one in Long Road, Cambridge. Donation takes 45 minutes.

The service 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.

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

The trial results are expected in late summer.

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