NHS issues urgent call for Covid-19 patients to donate blood plasma

6 August 2020, 08:29

Malcolm Shaw, 72, England's oldest plasma donor, at a donor centre in Liverpool
Malcolm Shaw, 72, England's oldest plasma donor, at a donor centre in Liverpool. Picture: PA

By Ewan Somerville

Coronavirus survivors who were hospitalised are being sought for plasma donations as part of a major trial.

Research is underway to assess whether convalescent plasma donations can be transfused into patients who are struggling to develop their own immune response.

NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which is collecting the plasma for the trial, said people who were treated in hospital for Covid-19 produce the most antibodies, making them priority plasma donors.

More than three quarters of such patients had high enough antibody levels for their donation to be used in the national trial.

Just three in 10 (30%) Covid-19 patients who did not need hospital treatment had high enough antibodies, which fight the virus if it returns. 

An urgent call has been issued for blood plasma donations from Covid-19 patients
An urgent call has been issued for blood plasma donations from Covid-19 patients. Picture: PA

But the body is urging anyone who had Covid-19 to come forward and donate - including men who had the symptoms but no test.

Antibody-rich plasma can be transfused into people who are seriously ill with Covid-19 and struggling to develop their own antibodies.

If the trial is successful, being treated with convalescent plasma could become a widespread practice in hospitals.

So far more than 13,000 donations have been taken, including more than 800 donations from people who were treated in hospital.

Dr Lise Estcourt, head of NHSBT's Clinical Trials Unit, said: "These figures demonstrate how important it is for people who were hospitalised with coronavirus to donate - they are most likely to be able to save the lives of others seriously ill people.

"These donors have higher antibody levels because while initially your immune system will try and fight off a virus with white blood cells, if you become more ill, your immune system needs to produce more antibodies that neutralise or kill the virus."

People who have had coronavirus are encouraged to donate by calling or 0300 123 23 23 or visiting the www.nhsbt.nhs.uk website.