The UK Government has approved a national clinical trial to assess plasma therapy for the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

A scaled-up national programme, if effective, will supply up to 10,000 units of convalescent plasma each week to the NHS, enabling the treatment of 5,000 patients per week.

The randomised trial will assess the effectiveness of convalescent plasma, which is obtained from recovered patients, in severely ill Covid-19 patients.

Convalescent plasma can be given to patients unable to generate their own antibodies against the virus.

Plasma from recovered patients consists of antibodies that detect the virus and can mitigate its growth.

Researchers will use plasma from patients who have recovered for at least 28 days to ensure increased antibody levels.

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England deputy chief medical officer Jonathan Van Tam said: “The UK is leading the world’s largest trials to find a treatment for Covid-19, with over 7,000 people so far involved testing a range of medicines. We hope to add convalescent plasma to this list shortly.

“Convalescent plasma has been used as an effective treatment for emerging infections in the past, and this step forward underpins our science-backed approach to fighting this virus.”

The government is also scaling up the national plasma collection programme to enable broad availability of the treatment if it is found to be effective.

Over April and May, the plasma collection will be increased to reach up to 10,000 units per week to the NHS.

NHS Blood and Transplant will contact recovered Covid-19 patients in England for possible plasma donation at their centres.

UK Health and Social Care Secretary Matt Hancock said: “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.”