Wales’ lead role in antibody transfusion treatment for coronavirus

Covid-19 convalescent plasma is a blood donation extract taken from people who have recovered from coronavirus.

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Wales is playing a leading role in a UK programme treating coronavirus patients with Covid-19 convalescent plasma.

Non-Covid-19 plasma has been used every day in NHS Wales, for a variety of reasons, for many years. Covid-19 convalescent plasma will help patients develop immunity as it “transfuses” antibodies against the virus, helping fight the infection.

Recovered patients are being invited to donate blood to the scheme.

The Welsh Blood Service, Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and University Hospital of Wales are now working with partners across the UK to share knowledge, procedures, best practice and learning.

The programme will capture the benefit of plasma transfusions to improve coronavirus patients’ speed of recovery and survival. In Wales, the plasma collected will be made available to clinicians for the benefit of Covid-19 patients, for example through participation in clinical trials which will inform the best possible future use.

Public Health Wales will identify and write to eligible donors who are confirmed to have tested positive for Covid-19.

The plasma will be collected and processed by the Welsh Blood Service. Donor safety and wellbeing is paramount, and donors must be virus and free and fully recovered before donating. Normally plasma will be collected no sooner than twenty eight days after recovery and the established safe blood donor selection criteria.

Vaughan Gething, Minister for Health and Social Services, said “It’s brilliant to see Wales is playing a leading role on this project which has the potential to significantly improve patient recovery and save lives. We will be capturing all outcomes and feeding into the UK and worldwide learning on the use of this technology.”

Dr Gill Richardson, Senior Professional Advisor to the Chief Medical Officer, said “Convalescent plasma is plasma that is collected from patients who have recovered from disease, in this case COVID-19. Plasma from patients who have recovered from the virus will contain antibodies that a patient’s immune system has produced to fight the virus. This can be transfused to patients whose immune systems are struggling to develop their own antibodies.

“The Welsh Government has worked at speed with our expert scientists at the Welsh Blood Service, the Department of Immunology at University Hospital of Wales, Critical Care Consultants and Public Health Wales to launch this innovative scheme. In the absence of any current vaccine or antiviral therapy, it has significant potential to aid the recovery of patients.”

Stuart Walker, Executive Medical Director of Cardiff and Vale UHB, said ‘’Our expert staff, working at the University Hospital of Wales, are delighted that we have been able to contribute to the development of this ground breaking treatment.

“The COVID-19 convalescent plasma programme, which represents a truly innovative potential treatment for patients with severe COVID-19 disease, is only possible due to fantastic cooperative working between Cardiff and Vale University Health Board, Cardiff University, Welsh Government, Public Health Wales and the Welsh Blood Service.

“We are very much looking forward to the first use of this treatment in patients at UHW, as this offers a genuine therapeutic option for this potentially fatal condition.’’

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