Statement: the coronavirus variant and convalescent plasma

There's no evidence that the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant evolved from a patient treated with plasma

5 January 2021

Media has reported speculation that the B.1.1.7 coronavirus variant may have theoretically developed in a patient who was ill for a long time, because they were very ill and benefitted from treatment such as convalescent plasma.

Professor Dave Roberts, Associate Medical Director at NHS Blood and Transplant, said: “It is possible that the mutations arose and were selected in one or more people who had long lasting infections and poor immune responses.

“But there is no evidence the new B.1.1.7 variant evolved in somebody treated with convalescent plasma. The authors of the paper acknowledge their hypothesis is a ‘speculation’.

“There is insufficient data to draw any conclusion at this stage on the exact way this might have happened. There is no evidence at the moment that the lineage has arisen from somebody who might have received treatment with antivirals, convalescent plasma or monoclonal antibodies.

“It is most likely to have arisen because one or more people, maybe a whole string of people, infected by the virus could not fully clear the infection with the cells and antibodies from their own immune system. If this went on for a long time many mutations could accumulate. This is a well-known phenomenon in viral infections and is not new.

“The reasons why the new B.1.1.7 variant has appeared, and its spread and impact, are being intensively investigated around the country.” 

NHS blood and Transplant is leading a programme to collect plasma for transfusion to people with coronavirus. Plasma from people who've had coronavirus may help people who are still ill. Find out more about the convalescent plasma programme

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