MONTREAL -- The first transfusion of convalescent plasma to a patient with COVID-19 in Canada took place on Thursday in Montreal at CHU Sainte-Justine, according to information learned by The Canadian Press.

Philippe Begin is the lead doctor at Sainte-Justine and spoke with CTV News about developing the project.

The study involves 1,200 patients at 45 sites across Canada, and started from scratch six weeks ago. 

Building the infrastructure to be able to recover the plasma from patients who had recovered from COVID-19 was the first, very large step. 

“This in itself is a huge undertaking,” said Begin. “To have been able to recruit the first patients to the study is a huge milestone for the whole team.”

Now the team is activating sites to enrol patients, which should accelerate in the coming weeks.

Patients who are being recruited are those with a severe case of COVID-19 on ventilators or intubation.

“We’re hoping to see the effect on the patients in the following days,” said Begin. “Usually patients with COVID-19, they progressed toward the very inflammatory state in the second week of infection and usually people to be included in this study should be around that time also.”

Each patient will be followed for 30 days, and data should be ready for analysis in a couple of months.

Begin is hopeful plasma transfusions will help as a short-term treatment.

“The good thing with plasma is it’s not a drug that needs to be produced,” said Begin. “It’s the antibodies that people naturally produce in their blood that’s being collected and given to other patients who are infected.”

The intervention was carried out as part of a large clinical study on the use of convalescent plasma in the fight against coronavirus.

Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood that contains antibodies that protect against disease. A recent American study recently demonstrated that the treatment is safe, but it is not known what impact it has on the recovery of patients.

With reporting from The Canadian Press.