Plasma therapy for COVID-19 effective, donors still sceptical
With convalescent plasma therapy being touted as an effective method to treat novel coronavirus patients, more individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 are now coming forward to donate their plasma to help in the recovery of other patients. The treatment involves transfusion of blood plasma from an individual cured of COVID-19 to a patient.
With convalescent plasma therapy being touted as an effective method to treat novel coronavirus patients, more individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 are now coming forward to donate their plasma to help in the recovery of other patients.
The treatment involves transfusion of blood plasma from an individual cured of COVID-19 to a patient.
While the members of the Tablighi Jamaat – a prominent COVID-19 cluster – who have been cured of the virus recently pledged to donate their plasma to mark the holy month of Ramzan, in a recent example, Tauseef Khan, the first doctor in Uttar Pradesh who contracted COVID-19 has donated his plasma for the treatment of other patients.
Khan, in his 20s, is a resident doctor at the King George’s Medical University (KGMU), Lucknow, and had contracted COVID-19 from a patient at the hospital on March 17. He was discharged from the hospital on April 7 after being cured and is now is back at work after a 14-day home quarantine.
“Dr. D. Himanshu of Medicine Department, who is looking after the treatment of COVID-19 patients, asked me if I wanted to become the first plasma donor (of KGMU). I immediately said yes as nothing could be greater than being able to save the life of a patient in the holy month of Ramzan,” Khan told PTI.
Khan’s plasma donation on Saturday (April 25) has initiated the plasma therapy of COVID-19 patients at the hospital. “In the evening, the process of extracting plasma from his body started, and almost 500 millilitres of plasma was extracted. The process took almost one-and-half hour,” said Tulika Chandra, head of Transfusion Medicine at KGMU.
She said Khan’s plasma will be administered on Monday or Tuesday to a patient who is in a serious condition and in whose case medicines aren’t working.
After the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) allowed states to start clinical trials of plasma therapy, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath on April 21 had asked medical authorities to promote plasma therapy for the treatment of COVID-19 patients after examining its efficacy.
Several states like Kerala, Gujarat, and Punjab have already started using plasma therapy for the treatment of COVID-19. While Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal has stated that the therapy is showing positive results, a 49-year-old COVID-19 patient in a Delhi hospital who was being administered plasma therapy was discharged on Sunday (April 26) after getting cured. Doctors said plasma therapy could have worked as a catalyst in speeding up his recovery.
Kejriwal on Saturday (April 25) had appealed to those who have recovered to come forward and donate plasma to save other people’s lives.
Tabrez Khan who recovered from COVID-19 and donated plasma said, the process is easy and takes nearly two hours.
“It was very easy. In total, it took two hours in the hospital, which includes blood testing, reports analysis, the process of extracting blood, and then removing the plasma from it and putting the remaining blood again in the body. The hospital also made all arrangements,” he told NDTV.
What is Convalescent Plasma Therapy?
Convalescent Plasma Therapy is an experimental procedure for COVID-19 patients. The idea behind the therapy is to transfer the immunity of a healthy person to a sick person using convalescent plasma. The therapy uses antibodies from the blood of a cured coronavirus patient to treat another critical patient.
The recovered COVID-19 patient’s blood develops antibodies to battle COVID-19. Once the blood of the donor is infused into the receiver, his/her antibodies will start fighting against coronavirus in the receiver’s body.
The process of donating plasma is similar to donating blood and takes about an hour. It is then transfused into the bloodstream of the sick patient.
“The patient will be given 200 millilitres of plasma. In other words, plasma donated by one patient (who has recovered from COVID-19) can be used for the treatment of two patients. If there is no positive result after the first 200 millilitres of plasma has been infused, then another 200 millilitres is infused,” Dr. Tulika Chandra, head of Transfusion Medicine at KGMU told PTI.
Several countries around the world, including the United Kingdom and the United States, have also started plasma therapy trials.
Previously, China too had administered plasma therapy to cure its COVID-19 patients.
Therapy helpful, but not alternative to vaccine, say doctors
In a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, clinicians reported that convalescent plasma therapy improved the outcomes of 10 patients with severe cases of COVID-19.
“It’s consistent with what I’m hearing from other places,” Michael Joyner, a physiologist at Mayo Clinic who is leading a convalescent plasma clinical trial in the US told The Wire Science.
Various studies conducted on the therapy deduced that the convalescent plasma could shorten the duration of COVID-19 and make it less dangerous.
“It seems that the chances of (success of) plasma therapy are good, and it is for this reason that this therapy is gradually being adopted across the country for treatment of COVID-19 patients,” said Dr. Tulika of KGMU.
Dr. S.K. Sarin of ILBS Hospital and chief of the COVID-19 panel in Delhi in interaction with Inventiva said although plasma therapy is a head start in the treatment, it cannot “eliminate the virus from the world”.
A vaccine is the only way to eliminate the virus, he added.
Sarin says chances of survival of a patient are maximum if plasma therapy is given at the beginning of the second stage of infection. He, however, reiterates that the therapy cannot replace the COVID-19 vaccine. He says, the therapy can be used until the vaccine arrives in the market.
Getting donors a challenge
Despite the ICMR approving plasma therapy, the challenge for health practitioners now is to convince people to donate blood for it.
For instance, at least 500 people have so far been discharged after being cured in Mumbai, a COVID-19 hotspot, but only a couple of people have come forward to donate blood for the therapy.
“We need to convince them to come forward and help others. After recovering, people have to remain in 14-day mandatory home quarantine from the date of discharge. Hence, it is difficult to collect their blood sample,” an official told PTI.
The shortage of donors is also because only those who have recovered in the last three weeks can be plasma donors, and while 857 patients have recovered in Delhi so far, most of them were discharged only in the last week, a doctor told Indian Express.
Tablighi Jamaat members pledge to donate
To encourage the donation, more than 200 members of the Tablighi Jamaat who have recovered from COVID-19 infection recently pledged to donate plasma for the treatment of other patients with severe infections.
The members have been tested and the collection of their plasma will begin from Monday (April 27) to help those patients admitted in the city hospitals who are in critical conditions said a report in the Hindustan Times.