Thu | Sep 24, 2020

Blood appeal for COVID study

Published:Thursday | August 13, 2020 | 12:25 AMNadine Wilson-Harris/Staff Reporter

The University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) is appealing to COVID-19 survivors to donate blood, from which researchers intend to derive plasma to treat patients who become seriously ill from the infectious disease.

Senior lecturer in haematology at The UHWI, Dr Gilian Wharfe, said the blood donations would allow the researchers to conduct a clinical trial aimed at ascertaining the benefits of convalescent plasma donation.

This procedure is currently being utilised in more developed countries like the United States and China, where an aggregate 5.3 million people have been diagnosed with the virus.

“All we have is anecdotal evidence that people have responded, but we don’t have any properly controlled trial, which is what we are trying to do and some other researchers are trying to do.

“The presumption is that these persons have antibodies which have allowed them to clear the virus, and so we want to transfer these antibodies passively to somebody who is ill with COVID-19,” said Wharfe, who is the principal investigator for the study.

The senior lecturer said that about 60 donors are needed. Their information will be kept confidential, she said.

The blood will go to those patients who become severely ill from the virus.

“Other researchers are looking at people who may have been exposed to a positive patient, and how to try to prevent the development of full-blown disease in those persons, so that’s another set of research that has been done, but we are looking specifically at patients with severe and life-threatening COVID-19,” she said.

The UHWI currently has seven patients who are being treated for COVID-19. Jamaica had recorded 1,065 cases up to Wednesday, and 236 are active.

Limited treaments

Medical chief of staff at The UHWI, Dr Carl Bruce, said that the use of blood plasma should be explored because limited medication has been approved for the treatment of COVID-19.

“There is a 57 per cent improvement in those who get the plasma versus those who do not get the plasma,” he said.

Those wanting to donate can send an email to plasmasupport@uhwi.gov.jm to register or call (876) 977-2327. Donors must be between the ages of 18 and 60 years, previously confirmed positive for COVID-19 by a laboratory test, and fully recovered from the virus and symptom free for at least 14 days to participate.

“We have to think of our country. We have to think about other persons who have families and friends who would like to have them around,” Wharfe said.

nadine.wilson@gleanerjm.com