A potential treatment for Covid-19 using plasma from recovered patients is to be trialled by doctors at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital.
The first donations of the plasma have been collected and transfusions will begin in “the coming weeks”, the hospital’s Biomedical Research Centre said in a statement.
It is hoped the potential treatment, known as convalescent plasma, will help patients whose bodies are not producing sufficient antibodies to fight the virus.
The hospital says if the trials prove the treatment to be effective, NHS Blood and Transplant will begin a national programme to deliver up to 10,000 units of convalescent plasma per week to the NHS, enough to treat 5,000 patients each week.
The trial is co-led by Dr Manu Shankar-Hari, a consultant in intensive care medicine at the hospital, along with experts from NHS Blood and Transplant and the University of Cambridge.
“As a new disease, there are no proven drugs to treat critically ill patients with Covid-19. Providing critically ill patients with plasma from patients who have recovered… could improve their chances of recovery,” said Dr Shankar-Hari.
Health and Social Care secretary Matt Hancock said: “This global pandemic is the biggest public health emergency this generation has faced and we are doing absolutely everything we can to beat it.
“The UK has world-leading life sciences and research sectors and I have every hope this treatment will be a major milestone in our fight against this disease.
“Hundreds of people are participating in national trials already for potential treatments and the scaling up of convalescent plasma collection means thousands could potentially benefit from it in the future.”
The BBC reported there was currently enough plasma to transfuse to 143 patients.