A potential coronavirus treatment using plasma from recovered patients is being trialled at London’s Guy’s and St Thomas’ hospital, with transfusions beginning in “the coming weeks”.
The potential treatment, known as convalescent plasma, is hoped to help patients whose bodies are not producing enough antibodies to fight Covid-19. If proven 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 a week.
Regulators in the US have allowed the emergency use of remdesivir, the first drug that appears to help some infected patients recover faster. The intravenous drug has been cleared for hospitalised patients with “severe disease,” such as those experiencing breathing problems requiring supplemental oxygen or ventilators.
Meanwhile, Ireland‘s taoiseach, Leo Varadkar, announced the country will begin its journey to a new normal after a further two weeks of the current lockdown restrictions, though people will be allowed to travel further to exercise and self-isolating over-70s will be advised they can leave home for a walk or drive in the coming days.
It comes as the global number of infections passed 3.3 million, with over 237,000 deaths reported.
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US regulators approve emergency use of remdesivir drug
US regulators allowed emergency use of the first drug that appears to help some COVID-19 patients recover faster on Friday, a milestone in the global search for effective therapies against the coronavirus.
The Food and Drug Administration cleared Gilead Science’s intravenous drug for hospitalized patients with “severe disease,” such as those experiencing breathing problems requiring supplemental oxygen or ventilators.
Donald Trump announced the news at the White House alongside Gilead CEO Daniel O’Day and Food and Drug Administration commissioner, Stephen Hahn.
“This was lightning speed in terms of getting something approved” said Mr Hahn, calling the drug “an important clinical advance.”
The FDA acted after preliminary results from a government-sponsored study showed that the drug, remdesivir, shortened the time to recovery by 31 per cent, or about four days on average, for hospitalized Covid-19 patients.
Those given the drug were able to leave the hospital in 11 days on average vs 15 days for the comparison group.
The drug may also help avert deaths, but that effect is not yet large enough for scientists to know for sure.
A potential exit strategy from the UK’s coronavirus lockdown could see the two-metre social distancing rule relaxed, as ministers have asked the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) to further probe the need for such a measure.
Questions over the two-metre rule have been raised by numerous ministers, The Daily Telegraph reported, amid discussions about whether such distancing is an effective tool in fighting the spread of coronavirus, and how and when to safely bring the country out of the lockdown.
Government insists it has met 100,000 daily test target
Professor John Newton, the government’s national testing co-ordinator, has insisted the 100,000 daily testing target was met despite home test kits being counted as they are dispatched rather than when they are returned.
He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “All the tests are only counted once, and you can count tests when they go out or when they come back in, and whichever way you do it we still meet the target.”
He also said the home testing kits are as accurate as those carried out at drive-in centres.
“In the drive-in centres, we’ve tested whether people could test themselves in their cars or whether they were tested by somebody trained and we found the results were exactly the same, so that gave us confidence that the home testing was a good approach,” he said.
Potential treatment on trial in UK
A potential treatment for coronavirus 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.
The health 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.
Good morning and welcome to the latest updates on the fight to tackle the coronavirus outbreak.
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