About 4,000 recovered Covid-19 patients from South Korean-based Shincheonji Church of Jesus will donate their blood, also known as convalescent plasma, for use in the research and development of a new therapy that could reduce deaths related to the illness.

Antibodies found in the blood of recovered Covid-19 patients could help fight off the disease.

A recent pilot study conducted at three hospitals in China found that immune antibodies harvested from recovered patients appeared to shorten the duration of symptoms, speed up recovery and improve oxygen levels in those infected.

Researchers hope the blood of recovered patients can be used to treat the critically ill and that it may curb current death rates.

To progress this research and develop the treatment scientists need the blood of individuals who have healed but battled to find willing donors. A previous trial was called off due to low participation.

To aid in the global search for a safe and effective treatment for Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, Shincheonji Church has urged its members to become donors, with roughly 4,000 are expected to give 500ml of blood.

Shincheonji leader Man Hee Lee, who is an advocate for world peace, personally advised recovered congregants to donate their plasma for the general good of humanity.

“As Jesus sacrificed himself with his blood for life, we hope that the blood of people can bring positive effects to achieve a world of peace for future generations,” said Lee.

After discussions with South Korean health authorities which highlighted the need for resources to progress treatment research, the church decided to create a plan for the donation.

“Some of the recovered members have already donated individually, feeling thankful for the assistance from the government and medical teams,” a Shincheonji representative said. “They expressed their willingness to make this contribution to society.”

There is currently no vaccine or drug proven to be widely effective in limiting the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, though various nations are researching treatment options.

A breakthrough in the search for a cure from South Korea would help to lower the mortality rate in Southern Africa, and to contain the economic damage suffered from lockdown measures.

South Africa, which has the highest number of infections in Africa, is particularly vulnerable, having the world’s largest HIV epidemic. Since wider easing of restrictions on trade and movement in the country in June infections have escalated sharply.