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Trials to begin using blood plasma to treat future COVID-19 cases

Published: (Updated: ) in Australian News by .

Australians who have recovered from coronavirus will soon be able to donate their plasma to help create a new treatment for future patients.

Australians who have recovered from coronavirus will soon be able to donate their plasma to help create a new treatment for future patients.

Health Minister Greg Hunt said almost 6000 Australians have already recovered from COVID-19 and their blood and plasma could be used on a voluntary basis.

"This treatment has the potential to assist those who are facing extreme conditions," Mr Hunt said today.

"(It is for those) in ICU, those in advanced stage of the effects of COVID-19 - Australia is leading the world in research and treatment."

He said the trial is still in the early stages of development and it will depend on the Therapeutic Goods Administration on how big it can be.

"We think somewhere between 50 and 100 patients, so that we can demonstrate this product is safe to use in patients with COVID-19 and is effective in neutralising the virus," Mr Hunt said.

The trial will be overseen by researchers from blood products giant CSL, who have started development of the potentially life-saving COVID-19 treatment at its Melbourne-based Broadmeadows facility.

A bag containing blood plasma from a recovered Covid-19 patient.

The project will rely on recovered coronavirus patients donating their plasma, which contains antibodies that fight the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

The company will firstly collect a small sample of plasma so it can detect, purify and concentrate these antibodies, to make what it calls 'COVID-19 Immunoglobulin'.

A second phase will involve a larger batch of COVID-19 Immunoglobulin being produced for clinical trials in Australian hospitals, to establish the safety of the product.

It's hoped the treatment will eventually be used on patients seriously ill with complications caused by coronavirus, particularly those who may need ventilation.

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"This is a treatment, not a vaccine," CSL's Chief Medical Officer Dr Charmaine Gittleson told reporters today.

"The hope is that the COVID-19-specific antibodies combine to the virus and neutralise it, assisting that patient in recovery and preventing progression."

The company estimates about 800 plasma donations will be required to treat 50-100 critically ill patients in a clinical trial.

More than 5000 people have recovered from coronavirus in Australia

The Australian Red Cross Lifeblood will collect donations from May 11.

"We'll be talking to hospitals and health departments in order to recruit donors as well as looking to our existing donors to identify suitable participants," Lifeblood chief executive Shelly Park said in a statement.

"This work may ultimately help treat patients suffering from this terrible disease and I would urge anyone who has recovered from a confirmed case of COVID-19 who thinks they may be eligible to donate blood, to contact us."

Mr Hunt said CSL, and Australia more broadly, is leading the world in research and treatment of the deadly disease.

"We don't want to over-promise, but in particular this treatment has the potential to assist those people who are facing extreme conditions, ones who are in ICU, those who are in an advanced stage of the effects of COVID-19," Mr Hunt told reporters.

Trials using plasma as a treatment for patients suffering from COVID-19 are also underway in other countries including Canada, China, the UK and the US.

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Source: 9News

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