Antibodies from patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are now being trialled as a possible treatment in two urgent public health research studies in Wales.
It’s hoped the antibodies, contained within plasma collected from people who have already had COVID-19, could help people who are critically ill in hospital with the disease.
These UK-wide studies have been set up across Wales* through Health and Care Research Wales.
Dr Matt Morgan, Health and Care Research Wales specialty lead for critical care, and Consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at the University Hospital of Wales, said:
“This involves giving the antibodies from patients in Wales who have already recovered from COVID-19 to patients who are critically ill. Much like giving blood, patients who recover can donate their antibodies in the form of plasma to help with the trials and hopefully help patients.
“We still need more evidence-based, effective treatments for COVID-19. Although breathing machines and some drugs may help whilst staff care for patients as best they can, we really need more treatments that work. These studies aim to answer the question of whether using antibodies from patients who have recovered can save the lives of patients with COVID-19.”
Non COVID-19 plasma has been used daily in NHS Wales for a variety of needs for many years. It’s hoped COVID-19 convalescent plasma therapy will help patients develop immunity as it transfuses antibodies against the virus, helping the patient who receives the plasma to fight infection.
The COVID-19 convalescent plasma collection programme is being delivered in Wales through the Welsh Blood Service, Welsh Government and Public Health Wales.
Dr Gill Richardson, Senior Professional Advisor to the Chief Medical Officer for Wales, said:
“Convalescent plasma has great potential to help severely ill patients recover and has been used for emerging viruses such as SARS and Ebola in the past. The trials involving COVID-19 are important as we do not yet have a vaccine and little is known concerning immunity following infection.
“Working together with expert scientists at the Welsh Blood Service, Immunology, Haematology, Critical Care and Public Health Wales, we have been able to make convalescent plasma available to both of these vital clinical research studies taking place in Wales. We are also linking with international researchers including the Mayo clinic in the United States.”
Public Health Wales has identified and written to potential donors who have a confirmed COVID-19 positive test result and are eligible.
The plasma is being collected and processed by the Welsh Blood Service. Donor safety and wellbeing is paramount, and donors must be fully recovered before donating and virus free.
For these reasons, normally, plasma will be collected no sooner than 28 days after recovery and the established safe blood donor selection criteria.
The Randomised Evaluation of COVID Therapy (RECOVERY) trial is testing to see if existing or new drugs can help patients who have been admitted to hospital with confirmed COVID-19. It’s the world’s largest randomised clinical trial of potential COVID-19 treatments, led by the University of Oxford and funded by the Medical Research Council.
REMAP-CAP: a platform trial for severely ill patients with COVID-19, led in the UK by Imperial College London and funded by the University Medical Centre Utrecht, is testing multiple treatments at the same time, for patients admitted to intensive care with severe community acquired pneumonia.
Professor Kieran Walshe, Director of Health and Care Research Wales, which is nationally coordinating research and study set up in Wales, said:
“We are working hard to make sure patients across Wales are able to take part in COVID-19 research, which will hopefully make a difference to future care and treatment of the disease.
“Testing convalescent plasma as a possible treatment, through the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP studies, is an opportunity for those who have recovered from the disease to potentially help someone who is fighting for their life.”
The Health and Care Research Wales COVID-19 research in Wales webpage has details of all related research studies that are active, or in set up, in Wales