India is now getting ready to administer plasma treatment for Covid-19 patients


  • The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has given a green signal to conduct clinical trials of plasma treatment.
  • Plasma treatment involves injecting the Covid-19 patient with the blood plasma of people who recovered from the infection.
  • The treatment has proved to be effective against rabies and diphtheria, Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, told Reuters.
  • However, the downside is that the blood plasma therapy is expensive and limited.
As of now, there is no proven treatment available for novel Coronavirus. But that is not stopping researchers from burning midnight oil to find one. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is one of them and has recently given a nod to conduct clinical trials of plasma treatment. Researchers are hopeful that the therapy would be able to cure critically-ill patients.

What is convalescent plasma treatment?

Plasma treatment involves injecting the Covid-19 patient with the blood plasma of people who recovered from the infection. Those cured already have antibodies that drive the virus away. They can be used to do the same for another patient. Researches reveal that it can help boost the immune system of the infected.

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“What hyperimmune globulin does is it concentrates the antibodies in a recovered patient. You are essentially giving the new victim’s immune system a boost of antibodies to hopefully get them through the very difficult phase,” said Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme.

It is not a new concept. It was earlier used when the H1N1 influenza pandemic swept the world in 2009. It was also helpful in controlling measles, before the vaccines were discovered.

As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), using plasma therapy is a ‘very valid’ approach — but the timing is important to maximize results. The treatment has proved to be effective against infections like rabies and diphtheria, Mike Ryan, head of WHO’s health emergencies programme, Ryan told Reuters.

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However, the downside is that the blood plasma therapy is expensive and limited. One donation from a recovered patient can yield only two doses of treatment.

Kerala becomes the first state to use plasma treatment

In a first, the apex body for biomedical research formulated a protocol for the therapy, prepared by doctors and scientists in Kerala. It became the first state to use plasma treatment on Coronavirus patients. It was once the worst-hit state — and now stands fifth with 357 infections, as per the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

As per directives, the donors will be those patients that recovered, with no signs of the infection for 2-3 weeks.
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According to Manoj Murhekar, director of the Indian Institute of Epidemiology, the treatment will not be used on patients with mild symptoms. “This will be for those who are on ventilators and under clinical trial mode, before being recommended for all patients,” he said.

To begin with, Kerala is focussing on collecting plasma samples of recovered patients. “The current effort is not to transfuse the plasma in patients but to begin the process of drawing and storing the plasma from donors to keep it ready when the time comes,” the expert committee member told ThePrint.

The state already started counselling the recovered patients for possible donations.
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India is replicating the model used by China and US

China and the US too have been using plasma treatment.

China, which was first hit by the pandemic, has been using therapeutic products extracted from convalescent plasma to treat Covi-19 patients. Their blood was also checked to see if the donor had diseases like hepatitis B or C.

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Meanwhile, a recent research published in J ournal of the American Medical Association and PNAS has shown that a single dose of donor blood plasma can help treat as many as 10 patients. It also said that the method can control symptoms, improve oxygen levels and accelerate recovery.

In the US, the Food and Drug Administration also approved clinical trials of the convalescent plasma on critical patients.

See also:
Here are the potential Coronavirus treatments that India and other countries are banking on
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