A blood plasma sample at a donor centre in Twickenham, south-west London – AFP
Anyone who tests positive for coronavirus through the national Test and Trace programme will be asked to join a blood plasma trial.
The research aims to establish whether plasma from people who have recovered from Covid-19 can help others to develop their immune response.
NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT), which is collecting plasma for the trial, said people confirmed to have the virus through Test and Trace will receive a text message 21 days after their result to ask whether they are willing to donate plasma.
The messaging service began this week and has seen more than 10,000 people enrol in the trial. Texts were sent to 65,000 people on Monday and Tuesday, directing them to a web form from which they could volunteer to donate.
Over the last two days, 10,370 people completed the form, bringing the total to 82,091 so far, NHSBT said.
The texts will now be sent on a weekly basis to anyone testing positive through the national Test and Trace programme.
An NHSBT spokesman said: “We thank everyone who beat Covid-19 who got a text and is now offering to donate convalescent plasma.
“We particularly want to hear from recovered people who are men, or who are aged over 35 or who needed hospital treatment. People falling into one of these three categories are likely to have higher antibody levels, which means their plasma is more likely to be able to save lives.”
Plasma from former patients is rich in the antibodies that develop as a person recovers from an illness.
It is 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 widespread practice in hospitals.
Early analysis in the trial has found that people from Asian communities who have recovered from coronavirus are more likely to have antibody-rich convalescent plasma which can save lives.
New figures, reported into the trial programme last week, showed that Asian convalescent plasma donors are almost twice as likely to have high antibody levels as white donors – 63 per cent of Asian donors met the threshold, compared to 36 per cent of white donors.
Anyone who has had coronavirus or the symptoms, and who lives near a donor centre, can offer to donate by calling 0300 123 23 23 or visiting www.nhsbt.nhs.uk.