Posted on Monday 6 July 2020
Ann Kitchen, 63, became the first patient to receive the experimental blood plasma treatment for COVID-19 as part of a landmark trial at Guy’s and St Thomas’.
As one of the top trusts in England for research, Guy’s and St Thomas’ research is playing a key part in identifying and testing COVID-19 treatments and diagnostics.
The treatment, known as convalescent plasma is being tested for patients who are severely ill with COVID-19 as part of the national priority trial REMAP-CAP.
Supported by the NIHR, REMAP-CAP is an international trial testing different treatments for patients who are seriously ill with COVID-19.
The trial is co-led by Dr Manu Shankar-Hari, a consultant in Intensive Care Medicine at Guy’s and St Thomas’ who is also an NIHR Clinician Scientist and Reader at King’s College London, along with experts from NHS Blood and Transplant and the University of Cambridge.
Ann was admitted to St Thomas’ Hospital at the end of April with coronavirus symptoms, and following a test was diagnosed with COVID-19.
Despite the best efforts of clinical teams Ann’s condition deteriorated significantly enough to require admission to the Intensive Care Unit. While receiving care in the unit, Ann was approached to participate in the convalescent plasma trial.
The convalescent plasma treatment uses plasma donations from patients who have recovered from COVID-19. This plasma is transfused into COVID-19 patients whose bodies are not producing enough of their own antibodies against the virus, in an attempt to support the patients fighting the disease.
The research lab run by Dr Shankar-Hari within the King’s College London School of Immunology and Microbial Sciences, is coordinating the science behind the convalescent plasma treatment.
Ann, who lives near St Thomas’, has dedicated most of her adult life to supporting the community in Lambeth, working as a volunteer with local young people for over 30 years and has a strong connection with the hospital.
All of her seven children were born at St Thomas’ and her late husband had been treated at the hospital for 27 years for a long-term condition.
Talking about taking part in the trial Ann said: “When I was approached to take part in this research I was a little apprehensive, but someone has to be the first to take part in trialling new ways of helping people to recover from this disease, so I thought ‘why not me’?!
“The research team was very supportive and answered all my questions. And I did it!”
She added “It is great to know that this hospital which is so close to my heart is testing new ways to treat patients and I am glad that I was able to be a small part of that.”
Talking of this milestone for the trial, Dr Manu Shankar-Hari said: “Convalescent plasma is a promising treatment that could help patients whose bodies aren’t producing enough antibodies to curb the disease. This trial will help us understand whether the treatment should be used more widely to treat COVID-19.
“We are incredibly grateful to Ann and all the patients who are taking part in our COVID-19 trials and to their families. At a difficult time for them, our patients are taking part in studies that will help us to understand more about how to treat the condition.”
Ann was discharged from hospital on the 15 May, and is recovering well at home with her family.
Plasma donation is coordinated by NHS Blood and Transplant.