Makerere University through its center of excellence for Lung science, the Makerere University Lung Institute, and in collaboration with Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) Medical Services, Uganda Blood Transfusion Services (UBTS), Mulago National Referral Hospital and Joint Clinical Research Center has initiated a project to assess the feasibility, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 Immune Therapies in Uganda .The project is code named Coronavirus (COVID-19) Immune Therapy (COVIDIT). A team of researchers is harvesting blood from the COVID-19 recovered individuals, processing it further in preparation for use as treatment for COVID-19 in Uganda.
The first phase of this project is funded by the Government of the Republic of Uganda through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF) https://rif.mak.ac.ug/.
Tuesday June 16th 2020 marked the kick-off of the plasma donation and processing work package in which individuals that have recovered from COVID-19 undergo the donation exercise, with subsequent processing of the collected samples. The donation processes are managed by UBTS following usual blood donation standards. UBTS will store the plasma and distribute it for use in the trial (WP2 below). The kick-off of the donation exercise was witnessed by representatives from the partner institutions, key stakeholders including Dr. Charles Olaro, Director Health Services at Ministry of Health, Kampala Uganda. Dr. Olaro was representing Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng, Uganda’s Minister of Health. A plasma donation center run by UBTS has been established in the newly renovated Mulago Hospital. The project kick off engagement was held at Lower Mulago National Referral Hospital Private Outpatients Compound.
Ms. Laura Nagasha, who recovered from COVID-19 was the first donor and when asked what motivated her to join in the strive she said ‘When I was called upon to join in this research, I never hesitated because if I can be the source of treatment for others, why not run to support the cause? I am here because I want us to quickly work together to find the treatment for Coronavirus’.
To-date June 17, 2020, four donors have turned up. ‘We appeal to all those individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 to come and donate blood so that we can together work towards kicking COVID-19 out of Uganda, the region and globe by offering treatment’ noted Prof. William Bazeyo, Deputy Vice Chancellor (Finance and Administration) at Makerere University and Chairman Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF). Prof. Bazeyo thanked the researchers, partners and above all the Government of the Republic of Uganda for funding research and innovations at Makerere University through Mak-RIF. He also thanked the Media for continuously relaying all the necessary messages to the public and urged them to always look out for and share facts.
Dr. Bruce Kirenga, Director of the Lung Institute and Project Principal Investigator shared the Project brief noting that the project was initiated in view of emerging evidence to support the use of convalescent plasma (CP) for the treatment of COVID-19 especially among severe and critical forms of disease with improved survival. The lack of other proven therapies for COVID-19 in Uganda and the availability of COVID-19 survivors in the country are some of the factors readily available to support these efforts .The project has 4 main work packages (WP);
WP1. Plasma Donation, Processing and Storage whose overall objective is to assess the feasibility of collecting, processing and storage of COVID-19 convalescent plasma for future investigative assessment of its efficacy in treating patients with COVID-19.
WP2. COVID Convalescent Plasma Therapy Trial whose overall objective is to assess the feasibility, safety and efficacy of COVID-19 CP in treatment of COVID-19 in Uganda.
WP3. Monoclonal Antibodies Manufacturing whose overall objective is to isolate potent monoclonal antibodies from peripheral B cells of Ugandan COVID-19 survivors for use in the prevention and treatment of COVID-19.
WP4. COVID-19 Survivor Registry whose overall objective is to establish a COVID-19 survivor registry to support the study of the long term impact of SARS-CoV2 virus infection survivors.
This engagement was covered and broadcasted by NTV Uganda. Listen to the news bite on https://youtu.be/HyGYLH5do4M
It was also published in the New Vision of June 17, 2020 Page 4.
By: Walter Jack Musoki, Medical Student at Makerere University College of Health Sciences and Harriet Adong, Mak-RIF Communications Officer
‘We Build for the Future’