Plasma Therapy is a technique to treat patients suffering from COVID-19. Although it is too early to label plasma therapy as a ‘silver bullet’ since it is yet to be put through the litmus test of precise trials to prove efficiency. In the bargain of life and death, convalescent Plasma Therapy has emerged as a ray of hope in the absence of an effective vaccine against COVID-19.
This treatment has been around since the 19th century. Early results of clinical trials on 12,000 patients had offered one crucial certainty: Safety of usage. But the decision is still indecisive whether it is a game-changer in fighting the deadly virus.
Plasma is the liquid part of the blood that carries cells and proteins throughout the body, and is 55% of the body’s total volume of blood. The theory behind is that the one who has recovered must have an antibody to fight the Coronavirus. Those antibodies could be helpful to patients who are suffering from the virus.
It is not that anyone can donate plasma and it would work. It needs to be the plasma of a recovered person. This therapy is applied to those patients who are at a critical stage and on ventilators. The plasma can be taken from the patient within 4 weeks of recovery.
The basic idea of plasma theory is to reduce the viral load and stop organ failure. According to the blood banks at these centers, fear and lack of awareness about the therapy are discouraging recovered patients to come forward to donate plasma. The trials are being held to determine how effective the therapy is on sick patients.
These blood banks collect 450ml of plasma from a donor, of which 200ml each is passed on to two recipients and other pathological tests are conducted on the remaining 50ml for studies.
The criteria for plasma donors acts as an obstruction for donation as many do not qualify. As per the criteria, the donor should be in the age group of 18-65 with hemoglobin not less than 12.5 and weigh above 50 kgs. Besides, the donor should have been symptomatic during admission and should not have co-morbidities like hypertension, diabetes, and heart ailments. If the donor is a woman, she should not have conceived. Donated plasma can be preserved at -40 degrees Celsius for a year.
How Can one donate?
Delhi will set up a plasma bank, the first of its kind in India for COVID-19 treatment which is a great news. If one is from another city they need to contact the helpline provided, to find out other places where plasma can be stored for future use. Another option is to consult the doctor who has treated the patient. This is one way to ensure that one can help somebody beat the disease which they have already conquered.
The century-old treatment which has shown results in treating measles, chickenpox, and rabies over the decades has thus emerged as a silver lining in the COVID-19 narrative.