Inspired by the positive results that the Convalescent Plasma Therapy showed while being used in several previous pandemics like Spanish Flu (1918), Diphtheria (1920), SARS (2003), H1N1 Flu (2010), MERS (2012), and Ebola (2018), the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has decided to hold the clinical trials of plasma therapy in the upcoming couple of weeks, and hence called for the participation of hospitals and research institutions.
The ICMR plans to conduct trials for Convalescent Plasma Therapy in which the plasma of a recovered person will be injected into the sick patient, and Plasma Exchange Therapy in which the entire plasma of the sick person will be replaced with that of a recovered one.
The treatment idea is in the trends across the globe and several countries are looking forward to it. Researchers have found that in China ten infected patients saw significant improvement in their conditions after being treated with the plasma therapy.
Plasma is a yellowish fluid part of our blood that contains antibodies. Antibodies, mainly constituted of proteins, are the first to fight against any foreign pathogen intruded inside our body. Since we have not encountered the novel coronavirus before, it is tough for our body to respond against the virus effectively. Because of a relatively weaker immunity, aged people and those with previous medical conditions are struggling to beat the infection caused by Covid-19. Therefore, in order to help push their bodies to generate a strong immuno-response, the antibodies of the recovered patients can prove to be of great help.
The procurement of the plasma will be according to the WHO guidelines set for plasma donors in 2014. Accordingly, the donors, without being forced, will be asked to donate their plasma, which would be then tested for potential complications like infections and suitability before being transferred into the body of a suffering patient.
Notably, the ICMR does not recommend plasma therapy as a treatment option for COVID-19 right now. Besides, Kerala has become the first state to receive approval from the ICMR to hold plasma therapy trials on its own.
The national and international organisations around the world are busy in conducting researches aimed at developing a vaccine for the cure of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
While it seems that the vaccine will not be arriving anytime soon, epidemiologists have recommended a few medicines which are being brought under use for the purpose. As recently, Hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malarial drug has been in the news, whereas other drugs like Ivermectin (an anti-parasitic), and Remdesivir (an anti-viral used in HIV) are also under trials. It is to be noted here that the efficacy of these medications has come under contention as well as their various potential side-effects.
Anyway, in the plasma therapy, we have got an option which unlike a vaccine may not provide a permanent solution but surely a temporary relief in the fight against COVID-19.