British researchers are continuing to collect convalescent plasma to see how it can best be used as a COVID-19 treatment, in spite of disappointing early findings.
NHS Blood and Transplant has announced it is restarting the collection of donated plasma, as it might benefit certain subgroups such as people with low natural antibody levels.
The decision was made together with the UK Department of Health and Social Care, it was announced. Further benefits of the treatment could be revealed from ongoing analysis of data from the RECOVERY and REMAP-CAP trials, in which the convalescent plasma was tested as a treatment.
In addition, international trials are investigating its benefits when given very early in infection, before symptoms have time to become severe, particularly for the most vulnerable populations.
So far in the UK, more than 60,000 plasma donations have been taken, of which about 14,000 had sufficiently high antibody levels.
“Convalescent plasma is a precious resource and the whole world is now focusing on early treatment, before organ damage and hospitalisation," said Dr Gail Miflin, Chief Medical Officer for NHS Blood and Transplant.
“There is emerging international evidence that early use will be effective, within hours or days of diagnosis, rather than when the virus has already done a lot of damage."
Separately, a further analysis looked at the origins of the B.1.1.7 "UK" variant. There had been speculation that this variant arose in a patient treated with convalescent plasma.
However, Professor Dave Roberts, of NHS Blood and Transplant, explains: “There is no evidence the new B.1.1.7 variant evolved in somebody treated with convalescent plasma.
“It is most likely to have arisen because one or more people, maybe a whole string of people, infected by the virus could not fully clear the infection with the cells and antibodies from their own immune system. If this went on for a long time many mutations could accumulate. This is a well-known phenomenon in viral infections."
Source: NHS Blood and Transplant
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