Plasma therapy has lent hope despite recent controversies

The lack of treatment options for COVID-19 had necessitated plasma therapy as an option to control the virus.

In the fight against coronavirus, doctors have relied significantly on administration of plasma therapy. And yes it has proved effective especially in the cases when it has been administered at the right time. For the uninitiated, plasma is one of the key components of human blood like red blood cells, white  blood cells and platelets. Medically speaking, plasma is the clear, straw-colored liquid portion of blood that remains after red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets and other cellular components are removed. It is the single largest component of human blood, comprising about 55 percent and contains water, salts, enzymes, antibodies and other proteins. Only symptomatic COVID patients can donate plasma after a minimum recovery period of 28 days as then their plasma is fortified with virus antibodies. About two units can be donated every 15 days and one unit (which is the mandatory unit during one donation) can save two lives.
India's first plasma bank was set up at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) on July 2 to ease access to plasma that is being used to treat COVID-19 patients. The lack of treatment options for COVID-19 had necessitated plasma therapy as an option to control the virus. The BJP led government in Assam too has endorsed this critical fact and hence been encouraging plasma donation in the state through its flagship plasma donation campaign whereby even recovered patients form the rest of the country can come to the state (on the state expenses ) and donate. There have been other ongoing drives too. In Assam plasma donation is being taken care of in the flagship government hospitals of the state like GMCH, AMCH, Tezpur Medical College &Hospital and Silchar Medical College &Hospital.
Incidentally the government has also appointed a group of very erudite and senior medical practitioners to spearhead a plasma donation drive in the state. Speaking to Fit NorthEast on the grounds of anonymity a Guwahati based COVID recovered patient who had donated his plasma under this particular drive said, "I was a little hesitant initially about donating my blood plasma as I feared medical repercussions. At the same time I wanted to contribute to this very noble and humanitarian cause. I was fortunate to finally be able to donate under the aegis of these experienced doctors for they satisfactorily answered all my doubts and queries. Truly there are no repercussions of plasma donation and I am just one among the many recovered donors who will testify to this heartening truth." When asked if there was any weakness he replied, "No just that I was advised against any form of strenuous activity for a couple of days."
A study by ICMR stated that convalescent plasma therapy (CP) as a treatment for COVID-19 has no effect on reducing the disease's mortality.
However, despite no reported or even alleged negative donor experiences ICMR has raised speculations on plasma therapy. A study by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) that was concluded almost three weeks ago stated that convalescent plasma therapy (CP) as a treatment for COVID-19 has no effect on reducing the disease's mortality. This is not all. The Centre has directed private hospitals not to use experimental therapies such as convalescent plasma or drug remdesivir routinely for treating COVID-19 patients after receiving complaints of its rampant use, particularly in tier 2 and 3 cities.Closer home, the officiating director of Shillong based NEIGRIHMS, Dr P. Bhattacharya has put an end to the debate on setting up of a plasma bank in the state, saying that plasma therapy was not a front runner in the treatment of COVID-19 patients.
Representative image
Image: Representative image
So should plasma therapy that has actually achieved very encouraging results and saved lives including that of our Former State Chief Minister, Tarun Gogoi be abandoned? Team Fit NorthEast spoke to Dr Bidyawati Das, former additional director at Assam Health Services and a leading gynecologist of the state who is one of the experts spearheading the ongoing plasma donation drive under the aegis of the state government. "One must understand that since there is no established cure of COVID plasma therapy has translated to hope and assurance for both the doctors and patients. While on one hand worsening of symptoms and fatalities have been averted with plasma therapy on the other donors need not fear any side effects. While minor side affects like temporary skin allergies can occur in some the procedure is risk free in a medical sense. Moreover due medical diligence of existing health parameters are conducted prior to every donation. People with co-morbidities and low hemoglobin are never allowed to donate plasma."
Antivirals, antibiotics and even steroids are currently being administered to COVID patients. Even these drugs are not proven cures for coronavirus. However, the heartening fact is that in an overwhelming majority of cases these have worked. "This is largely because these medicines are being given under the aegis and discretion of our doctors and experienced healthcare workers. I feel they know what they are doing and giving the right doses after assessing the patient's condition. Same goes for plasma theory. They know when, how and who to give it to and hence the success rates," says Rita Sharma a citizen of Guwahati. We at Fit NorthEast agree. Yes there have been deaths of some COVID patients but unfortunately there is no disease in the world that has not claimed lives- and this despite having established and even sophisticated and advanced cures. So maybe till that miracle vaccine is developed the world should hold on with antivirals, antibiotics and plasma therapy.

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