A large scale clinical trial using plasma of cured COVID-19 patients to cure people who are currently infected is about to take place in Belgium. Academic and general hospitals in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia will cooperate in this trial, with UZ Leuven coordinating the research. The trial is financed by the federal government. The first COVID-19 patients eligible to undergo a plasma transfusion have already been selected at the beginning of May.
In Belgium, as in other countries, people who have been infected with the corona virus, and recovered are being asked to donate blood. Their blood plasma contains antibodies against the corona virus which may boost the immune system and help the recovery process of infected people.
First step is to select the most suitable blood plasma donors, who carry enough of the right antibodies in their plasma. Candidate donors can register with the Red Cross via the website covid19plasma.rodekruis.be. So far, thousands of people have volunteered to become plasma donors, of whom 359 had the correct profile. These potential donors will undergo further preliminary screening.
According to prof. dr. Geert Meyfroidt, national coordinator of the plasma trial, plasma transfusion is a promising therapy for COVID-19 patients that can be available much sooner than medication or a vaccine. “We want to establish whether administering antibodies from the plasma of recovered patients at an early stage of infection may help to stop corona patients from ending up on a ventilator. However, there are many questions regarding convalescent plasma that need to be answered, and this is why a trial such as the one we are conducting now in Belgium is so important. Similar trials are being conducted in neighbouring countries, and by pooling and comparing our results we hope to come to an analysis on a European level.
According to federal health minister Maggie de Block, it would be great news if plasma transfusions work as a treatment. “It would mean that cured patients can help future patients directly, simply by donating plasma. We are pushing the virus back slowly but surely but that doesn’t mean we can let our guard slip. On the contrary, through projects such as these we want to stay ahead of possible new outbreaks. The corona virus took the whole world by surprise but we intend to do everything in our power to prevent this from happening again.”
The plasma trial has been set up by the Belgian Red Cross and many hospitals throughout Belgium. These are: UZ Leuven, CHU Brugmann, Erasmus Hospital Brussels, UZ Brussels, UMC Sint-Pieter Brussels, AZ Delta Roeselare, CHU Liège Sart-Tilman, Cliniques Universitaires St Luc, CHC Liège Mont Légia, Institut Bordet, Imelda hospital Bonheiden, ZNA Stuivenberg, AZ Groeninge, CHR Jolimont Mons-Hainaut and CHR Citadelle Liège. At a later stage, more hospitals may be included.
The Belgian Red Cross calls up recovered COVID-19 patients to come forward and donate blood plasma.