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Plasma Therapy – A potential treatment for COVID -19?

Written by Mary Pooja

Covid-19 cases in India have shot up in the last couple of days reaching 75k+ cases.  Researchers around India are working conscientiously to find a vaccine yet, an effective treatment for the SARS-2 Covid-19 is still unknown. Though various organizations continue it’s testing, Plasma therapy is being tried as a temporary treatment to help patients recover. Several countries including India looks plasma therapy as a potential treatment for Covid-19.

Is it a cure to Corona Virus? Read to know more…

What is Plasma Therapy

The Therapy:

  • Entails giving patients a transfusion with plasma (or serum) from those who have developed antibodies to a virus or bacteria.
  • This process grants the patients some passive immunity. Convalescent blood is an option if there are no medicines or vaccine to treat an infectious disease.
  • The first valid trial was done in 1892 for diphtheria using serum from animals

Side Effects:

  • No definitive studies exist showing effectiveness. In case of Dengue, convalescent serum was found to patient worse, as it led the virus to replicate.
  • There could be transfusion-associated reactions. Unknown pathogens could be transferred into a patient during transfusion

Risks for Covid-19 Patients:

  • Potential risks of therapy remain unknown. US FDA rules say suitable donors are those whose infection began 28 days prior.
  • A study from Wuhan published in March showed that 10 adults who were severely ill with Covid-19 tolerated the transfusion well and started developing antibiotics that helped reduce the viral load within 7 days.

Is plasma therapy effective?

Immunotherapy with neutralizing antibodies present in convalescent plasma (CP) proved to be effective and safe for patients. To test whether CP would benefit COVID-19 patients as well, researchers in Wuhan, China, performed a study in 10 severely ill COVID-19 patients who also received many different antivirals.

Within 3 days of CP therapy, most patients exhibited improved clinical symptoms, higher levels of blood oxygen and lymphocytes, lower C-reactive protein levels, undetectable viral loads, and improved chest computed tomography scans; two patients were weaned from ventilators.

In India, the first COVID-19 patient to be given plasma therapy has also made a recovery. While this patient in Delhi was showing severe symptoms with no signs of recovery, his condition began improving soon after he was given the blood transfusion, and he has now made a full recovery—prompting many to cling to convalescent plasma therapy as a silver lining in this shitstorm. In Delhi, the central government has allowed plasma therapy trials to be conducted on critical patients and for its effects to be studied, with Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal even urging recovered patients to come forward and donate their blood.

Risk Involved:

Besides speaking about the success of the convalescent plasma therapy, the study by John Hopkins immunologists stated some of the risks associated with it:

  1. Transfer of blood substances: As the blood transfusion takes place, there are risks that an inadvertent infection might get transferred to the patient.
  2. Enhancement of infection: The therapy might fail for some patients and can result in an enhanced form of the infection.
  3. Effect on immune system:The antibody administration may end up suppressing the body’s natural immune response, leaving a Covid-19 patient vulnerable to subsequent re-infection.

Vaccine for Covid-19 – A possibility?

A source from livemint have shared, “Generally, vaccines take several months to pass the different stages of testing, and then approvals also take time. For COVID-19, we don’t expect a vaccine to come in this year,” agreed Rakesh Mishra, director of the CSIR-Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (CCMB) in Hyderabad.






About the author

Mary Pooja