What is Plasma Therapy; is it a cure for the Coronavirus? All your FAQ’s answered

A beacon of hope or a cure? This is the question that the world is trying to find answers to. Is Convalescent Plasma Therapy the ray of hope as a cure from the deadly coronavirus.

Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 has its origin in China, where it was adopted and tested on 15 critical patients suffering from the deadly virus. Post this, the treating doctors found faster signs of recovery and hence started the debate on the advantages of Plasma Therapy.

India too has now started using Convalescent Plasma Therapy as a treatment for patients with severe COVID-19 symptoms. Even though it is still in the trial stages, there have been positive indications. The Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR), the top medical authorizing body in India, has also given its approval for use. Let us understand a bit more about this silver lining in the otherwise grim coronavirus scenario.

What is Convalescent Plasma Therapy?
Plasma therapy uses antibodies found in the blood of people who have recovered from an infection (in this case the coronavirus), to treat patients who are still infected with it.
The human blood consists of four main components – red and white blood cells, platelets and plasma. Plasma helps the blood to clot and supports immunity.
When a person contracts an infection, like the COVID-19, the body produces antibodies (secreted by immune cells in the plasma) to attack the virus. Even after recovery, these antibodies continue to remain in the blood, for a future need, in case the virus recurs.

In plasma therapy, it is these immunity-sufficient antibodies of the plasma that are drawn and transferred to someone who has recently contracted the same virus and is critical. The antibodies can help him/her fight against the virus.

Also Read: COVID-19: World wants China to pay up for its negligence

How is plasma collected?
The blood is taken from a patient who has recovered. Then the plasma is separated from the blood while simultaneously returning red blood cells to the donor’s body. It is then tested for antibodies and if all the parameters are agreeable, then it is administered to Covid-19 patients.

Is this a new discovery for treatment?
It was first discovered in 1890 by German physiologist Emil von Behring, who was then awarded the first ever Nobel Prize for medicine for this discovery.

The method dates to 1918, when it was used to treat the Spanish Flu. It has also been used for SARS, MERS, Ebola and also for H1N1 patients.

What are the conditions required for a plasma therapy to occur for coronavirus?
The following conditions need to be satisfactory –
Medical experts indicate that the donor should be 17 years or above, 50 kgs or above and should not suffer from any pre-medical conditions like diabetes or BP. Apart from these, the donor should have been cured 14 days prior to the transfer and should have tested negative in the swab test.

Is plasma therapy a 100% cure for coronavirus?
There’s no proof till date of this. Countries like the US, China, and now India are using it as a temporary solution, till any scientific proof comes along. Plasma therapy may only give temporary passive immunisation to a patient, unlike a vaccine, which can provide lifelong immunity.

How has Plasma Therapy been used in India so far?
With over 3 million global cases, the coronavirus has indeed changed the way the world operates today. India has almost reached the 30,000 mark of positive cases also.

The top medical research body of India, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), has approved clinical trials for those critically ill with Covid-19.

Kerala was the first state to start the therapy. After conducting a limited trial in the national capital, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal has said that initial reports of the trial show promise. Several other states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh have also sought permission from the Centre to conduct trials.

Though the Health Ministry in its recent briefing has clearly stated that ‘Plasma Therapy is one of the therapies which is being experimented with, however there is no evidence to support that it can be used in treatment’.

Which countries are using plasma therapy against coronavirus?
India, US, China, Spain, Turkey, South Korea, Italy and the UK are some of the countries that are using the therapy.

What are the challenges of Plasma Therapy?
Plasma Therapy has not been approved as of now by WHO as a cure for coronavirus. Apart from this, the number of positive patients being more than the number of recovered ones, poses a demand-supply challenge.
All the cured people may not qualify the criteria listed and there could be a significant number who may not want to donate their plasma since it’s a voluntary act.

So, even though the trials have started, it cannot still be ascertained as a cure for the deadly coronavirus.

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