Uganda starts plasma based treatment trial for Covid-19

By Our Correspondent

Health Minister Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng has announced that researchers have been cleared to use both Mulago and the regional referral hospitals to carrying out trials of the new treatment that uses extracted plasma to fight Covid-19 in patients.

Makerere University scientists have developed the convalescent plasma medicine and are starting off with extracts from more than a hundred units of blood they obtained from consenting persons who were above 18 years of age and their blood fulfilled the safety criteria of the Uganda National Blood Transfusion Services . Dr. Bruce Kirenga the lead investigator on the trial said the extracted plasma from donors will be used to treat both patients that are in severe state and the mild ones to stop the disease from progressing. He explained that all the donors considered in the blood collection phase had anti-bodies against SARS- COV- 2 the virus that causes COVID-19.

Of the 192 recovered patients who were approached, 179 fulfilled all the safety requirements. But further rigourous elimination processes left the scientists with only 127 units that are absolutely  viable and fit for use.

To treat each person, they require two units of blood meaning two donors are required for each patient. The higher the antibodies in the extracted plasma the quicker the person who receives it is able to recover from the virus.
From the blood so far collected, the Makerere scientists have established that the required antibodies are higher among donors who donated closer to their date of first positive test.

A total of 136 COVID-19 patients are expected to participate in the trial that kicks off this Thursday. President Yoweri Museveni has told Ugandans that the country will no longer be a spectator in medical science research as far as development of vaccines and medicines is concerned. The research program is funded by the government of Uganda through Makerere university Research and innovation Fund (Mak-RIF) which is headed by Prof. William Bazeyo whi is also the Ag. Deputy vice Chancellor in charge of Finance and Administration at Makerere University .

The Makerere scientists recommended that the country undertakes the trial plans for programmatic collection, processing and storage should be initiated such that if the plasma efficacious is recorded , rapid acquisition and use of plasma can be implemented.

“For programmatic plasma donation, donation centers should be decentralised to regional blood banks. There is need to undertake sensitization of the population about blood donation in general convalescent plasma donation particular to increase acceptable rate. Plasma donation should also be arranged within few weeks after recovery so as to obtain high antibody plasma,”Dr. Bruce Kirenga, one of the principal investigators and Senior Lecturer and Director of MLI ,stated.

The Makerere Scientists are being supported by Resilient Africa Network (RAN), organisation’s head of communication Ms. Harriet Adong said.

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