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Clinical Trials Using Human Plasma to Start

Clinical trials using blood plasma from recovered Covid-19 patients will start this month in ten specialised units throughout the country, revealed the Portuguese Institute of Blood and Transplantation (IPST).

After the Director-General for Health, Graça Freitas, announced last week the creation of a “national task force” to carry out an extended clinical trial to understand whether the use of human plasma is safe in the treatment of infection by SARS-CoV-2, the IPST has already assessed the technical and logistical capabilities existing in Immuno-Hemotherapy services for collection by apheresis. This procedure allows the separation of the different blood components.

“Not only will the three IPST Blood and Transplantation Centres – Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra – undertake this ‘blood harvest,’ but also three Immuno-hemotherapy services in the North region, one in the Centre region and three in the South region,” said the president of the IPST Board of Directors, Maria Antónia Escoval, to local reporters.

In addition to identifying these ten services, the IPST has already defined a procedure and “guidelines for donor selection, collection, analysis, processing, storage and distribution of convalescent plasma” for hospital services, where doctors and prescribing teams will be responsible for carrying out the tests.

“During May, the voluntary recruitment of convalescent patients will be carried out explained Maria Antónia Escoval, adding that “simultaneously, a working group, within the scope of the Ministry of Health, will define the minimum inclusion and exclusion criteria for patients to enter clinical trials.”

Trials with human plasma to treat patients with Covid-19 have already taken place in China and Italy, showing promising results, despite their restricted scope. In Portugal, the trial will start with an appeal to recovered patients to come forward and donate blood – although the IPST has admitted that “it is not the only” solution available.

Asked about the existence of risks associated with convalescent plasma transfusion for patients with Covid-19, such as a likely increase in the risk of infection reported in rare cases in the treatment of other pathologies, the president of the IPST Directive Council stressed that “the benefits seem to outweigh the risks and we will minimise these ‘through donor selection.”

The launch of the plasma clinical trials also involves the National Health Institute Dr Ricardo Jorge (INSA) and Infarmed.

Samantha Gannon

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