Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) is caused by the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus-2 (SARS-CoV-2) virus. First reported in early December 2019 in Wuhan China, it has since spread across all continents. Over 21 million cases have been reported, and more than 700,000 deaths have been recorded. The first case of COVID-19 in Uganda was reported on 21st March, 2020 and since then, more than 5000 cases have been reported, with more than 60 deaths recorded.
There is no vaccine available for COVID-19, and treatments are only starting to emerge. There is emerging evidence to support use of COVID Convalescent Plasma (CCP) for treatment of COVID-19 especially among severe and critical patients. Plasma is the straw colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components of blood are removed.
Wednesday, September 16th 2020 was yet another day of great achievement to Makerere University in Kampala Uganda. On this day, Uganda’s Minister of Health; Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng officially launched the Uganda Coronavirus Convalescent Plasma Investigational New Drug and the CCP trial to assess the safety and efficacy of CCP in treatment of COVID 19 in Uganda. The launch was held at Makerere University’s Main Hall. Prof. William Bazeyo, the session chair and also Principal Investigator of the project gave welcome remarks on behalf of Makerere University’s Vice Chancellor. He thanked the government of the Republic of Uganda for funding this project and several others (now totaling to over 500 multidisciplinary projects) through Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (MAK-RIF) https://rif.mak.ac.ug/ . He also thanked Uganda’s Minister of Health Hon. Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero who graced the occasion as Chief Guest for the continued support from the ministry. He ended by assuring the Hon. Minister that Makerere University Medical School is working hard to become number one in Africa after being ranked second for so long. He noted this was possible with more support from the government of the Republic of Uganda.
Dr. Bruce Kirenga; the Director Makerere University Lung Institute http://mli.mak.ac.ug and also Principal Investigator of this project mentioned that despite evidence of possible efficacy of CCP in the treatment of COVID-19, very few African countries have undertaken the collection and processing of CCP. He mentioned the aim of the project was to assess the feasibility of collecting, processing and storing of CCP for the treatment of COVID-19 in Uganda. He emphasized the need to collaborate and collate all the related scientific facts throughout the collection, processing and storage of Convalescent Plasma.
The team approached COVID-19 recovered individuals who had been managed and discharged at the treatment centers across the country. To be included, participants needed to provide written informed consent, have documented evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection by PCR, have documented evidence of full recovery from COVID-19, be at least 18 years and meet all criteria for blood donation set by Uganda National Blood Transfusion Services in order to be eligible.
Dr. Bruce Kirenga said of the 186 who came to the donation center, 87% qualified to donate. The donors were received from all regions of Uganda except Karamoja that had not registered an infection by then. The median age of the donors was 33 years and 3.7% were females. A significant finding was that all the samples donated had enough antibodies to warrant use in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
In her address, Uganda’s Minister of Health; Dr. Jane Ruth Aceng Ocero gave the green light to the scientists to commence (with immediate effect) the CCP trial now that the product was available. She thanked the scientists for innovation. Dr. Aceng appealed to the general public to continue observing the COVID-19 Standard Operating Procedures as scientists continue to innovate, find treatment and cure for the deadly virus. She said the country had reached phase 4 of the pandemic and the virus was now killing on average 2-3 people a day. This she noted was/ is widespread community transmission of COVID-19 meaning that the spread can no longer be controlled but can only be mitigated. She emphasized that COVID-19 in Uganda is real so anything proven that can be done to save a life is highly welcome and appreciated.
The project was conducted by the COVID Research group (COVIDRES) group; a multi-disciplinary research group coordinated by the Makerere University Lung Institute (http://mli.mak.ac.ug). Other partners on the project are Uganda People’s Defense Forces Medical Services, Mulago National Referral Hospital, Joint Clinical Research Center and Uganda Blood Transfusion Services. The team is now moving forward to undertaking the CCP trial.
Project details are shared and accessible here
COVID-19 Convalescent Plasma as an investigational drug launch in the Media on September 17, 2020
- NTV Uganda https://youtu.be/31DM3zeJqdM
- Uganda Radio Network https://ugandaradionetwork.net/story/makerere-starts-using-recovered-patients-blood-for-treating-covid-19-
- UBC September 17, 2020 – https://youtu.be/yxqxWl6iblk
- BBC: https://www.bbc.com/news/live/world-africa-47639452?ns_mchannel=social&ns_source=twitter&ns_campaign=bbc_live&ns_linkname=5f61f2bd741ac102ce3d496d%26Covid-19%3A%20Uganda%20launches%20plasma%20study%262020-09-16T12%3A58%3A16.016Z&ns_fee=0&pinned_post_locator=urn:asset:8f6eb126-6dfb-404d-9af9-b29588134afe&pinned_post_asset_id=5f61f2bd741ac102ce3d496d&pinned_post_type=share
- CGTN Television-an international English-language news channel based in Beijing owned by China Central Television, a state-owned broadcaster- September 17, 2020: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1xAhA1yg2aU64X_WyBdr3I2rs35Nuc2tB/view?usp=sharing
Makerere University Vice Chancellor’s Diary https://news.mak.ac.ug/2020/09/launching-covid-19-convalescent-plasma-drug/
New Vision September 17, 2020 page 3: https://rif.mak.ac.ug/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/New-Vision-September-17-2020-page-3.pdf
Daily Monitor Page 3 September 17, 2020: https://rif.mak.ac.ug/wp-content/uploads/2020/09/Monitor-Page-3-September-17-2020.pdf
‘We Build for the Future’ ‘For God and My Country’
Compiled By: Musoki Walter Jack, 3rd Year Medicine and Surgery Student at Makerere University and
Harriet Adong, Communications Officer, Makerere University Research and Innovations Fund (Mak-RIF)