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Plasma treatments for COVID-19 quadruple – but the NHS still needs more donations

Written by on 29/09/2020

The number of people receiving plasma as a treatment for COVID-19 has quadrupled in the last month.

Around 220 hospitalised patients were treated in September as part of clinical trials that began in May.

People who have had coronavirus produce antibodies that are present in their plasma – if transfused to a COVID-19 patient who is struggling to develop their own immune response, there is evidence that it could help them recover.

A man is seen donating blood at the hospital in Delhi
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NHS Blood and Transplant currently holds enough units of donated plasma for the trials – but is building a stockpile that is ready to be used immediately if the trials succeed.

The NHS currently has enough units to treat about 4,000 people and is appealing for more donations.

Sheila MacLennan, clinical lead for the Convalescent Plasma Programme, believes the increase in treatments is due to more hospitals participating in the trials and an uptick in coronavirus cases.

Professor Jonathan Van-Tam, the deputy chief medical officer, urged people to donate plasma and volunteer for clinical trials.

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“These are concrete actions you can take and possibly save someone’s life,” he said.

John Curtis, 58, is a taxi driver and a dad of two from Essex who recently received plasma.

He was taken to Queen’s Hospital in Romford after breathing difficulties that made him feel like he “had run a marathon up and down the stairs”.

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He decided to “take anything to combat this thing”, agreeing to receive one unit of plasma a day for two days.

“I like to think it helped, though the trial is still going on,” he said. “My son is a doctor with some experience of it and he thinks it helped.”

Mark Campanale, 56, runs a research NGO and has donated plasma six times since he got COVID-19 in March.

After initially dismissing his high fever as “summer flu”, he became delirious and was taken to Kingston Hospital, where he received oxygen treatment for five days.

He started donating plasma a few weeks after he recovered and hopes his antibody levels will remain high enough for him to continue doing so.

Mark Campanale has donated plasma six times since he recovered from COVID-19
Image: Mark Campanale has donated plasma six times since he recovered from COVID-19

“It was the least I could do for all those people still back in my ward suffering,” he told Sky News.

He did not find donating uncomfortable and said his recovery time was minimal – he even went shopping immediately after his first donation.

He said: “If you don’t mind needles it was fine. Even if you do, you don’t really feel it.

“You’re hooked up to the machine for maybe 30, 40 minutes, then you get your chocolate bar, your biscuits and your cup of tea.”

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Plasma donations from COVID-19 survivors are being collected at NHS Blood and Transplant’s 23 donor centres around the country, and five pop-up centres.

London, Greater Manchester and Birmingham are priority areas for donations.

 Sky News

© Sky News 2020

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