Coronavirus: Hospital to trial 'glimmer of hope' blood treatment

A vial of blood in a centrifugeImage source, Getty Images
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The trial will take plasma from the blood of people who have recovered from coronavirus, and give it to patients who are very unwell

A potential new treatment for coronavirus being trialled at a hospital in Wales offers patients a "glimmer of hope", specialists say.

The University Hospital of Wales (UHW) in Cardiff hopes to offer the treatment as part of a study within a month.

Blood will be extracted from people who have recovered from Covid-19 and the plasma will be given to patients.

It is hoped antibodies in the plasma of the blood could help others struggling to fight the infection.

At this early stage, the plan is to trial the treatment on patients who are severely affected by coronavirus, according to Dr Stuart Walker, medical director at Cardiff and Vale University Health Board.

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Dr Stuart Walker, the health board's medical director, says the treatment offers "a glimmer of hope"

"At the moment there are no other treatments per se for the viral infection itself, so this does give us a glimmer of hope," he explained.

"When you have an illness like this you produce a response in the form of antibodies in the blood stream.

"Those antibodies can potentially negate the effects of the virus in people who are suffering from it in a more severe way."

Image source, Mick Lobb/Geograph
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The University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff is at the "forefront" of such treatments

Public Health Wales will identify and write to potential donors, with the plasma collected and processed by the Welsh Blood Service.

Donors will need to have tested positive for Covid-19 and now be fully recovered.

For years, so-called "convalescent plasma" has been used on a daily basis in the health service to help combat other viruses, as well as internationally in response to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (Sars) and Ebola epidemics.

The BBC has been told other hospitals across the UK are also looking to trial the treatment, with further announcements understood to be imminent.

But UHW is "at the forefront", in part due to the expertise of its staff, according to Dr Richard Skone, clinical board director for specialist services.

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There are a number of experts in the particular field at UHW, according to Dr Richard Skone

"We're very fortunate here in Cardiff to have a number of specialists who have already been working in this area," he said.

"This is in the research stage at the moment but there's a chance it could help people who can't defend themselves against the virus - and for those people it could make a big difference."

The Welsh Government said Wales was playing "a leading role in the UK programme" for treating coronavirus patients using convalescent plasma.

"If the practical application works then we should be in a position where we can have a more effective response to people who are seriously ill," Health Minister Vaughan Gething said.

"And we know there are hundreds of people who are seriously ill across Wales.

"This is a really good news story for Wales and we need some good news at this really difficult time.

"People should be really proud of this work that is being done and lead from Wales."