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Convalescent Plasma Therapy Could Treat COVID-19 Patients

Despite ICMR downplaying, doctors believe plasma therapy viable treatment option

Ever since it was revealed that convalescent plasma (CP) therapy could help treat severely-ill COVID-19 patients, it was hailed as a magic bullet for people whose hopes were dashed in the absence of a vaccine or a proven drug. However, recent studies have raised questions about the efficacy of plasma therapy.

A few days ago, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) published the result of a trial conducted across 39 hospitals in the country to determine if the plasma therapy reduces COVID-19 fatality or slows the progression of the disease. The study could not establish either scenario.

A month ago, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) had also conducted a trial for the plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients. The trial results revealed that the therapy did not show much clinical benefit in reducing fatality risk caused due to the virus.

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While the subsequent research proves that plasma therapy’s efficacy is minimal in moderate and severe COVID-19 patients, the doctors still believe that it is proving helpful in the treatment.

Dr Pankaj Solanki, who runs Dharamveer Solanki Hospital, a COVID-19 facility in New Delhi, believes that one should not see plasma therapy as an alternative to the vaccine. He said that its efficacy is proven in treating patients suffering from infectious diseases like EBOLA. “The concept of convalescent plasma is simple. Patients who recover from an infectious disease often produce antibodies that can protect against later infections with the same viral infection. This immunity can be transferred by giving serum to those at risk of infection. It has been used for viral infections like EBOLA, MERS, Spanish Flu, SARS, and measles with some success,” he said.

plasma
When separated from the rest of the blood, plasma is a light yellow liquid. Plasma carries water, salts and enzymes. Unsplash

“Now coming to the benefits, it is very well tolerated, reduces hospital stay time, and promotes the early discharge of patients. Till we do not have any definitive treatment or vaccine, I would recommend the continuous use of this therapy,” added Dr Solanki.

Dr Gyan Bharti, a pulmonologist at Columbia Asia Hospital in Ghaziabad, said that plasma therapy is the best supportive medium to generate against the virus in the absence of a vaccine. “There is a group of patients who benefited from plasma therapy. It is one of the best supportive ways to fight with COVID as it generates antibodies against the virus. Till the vaccine arrives, the plasma therapy remains the best medium to insert antibodies inside the body of an infected person,” he said.

“A recent ICMR study revealed no benefit of Convalescent Plasma therapy in COVID patients who are moderate to severely ill. However, neither we have any definite treatment nor a vaccine for COVID. In such a situation, each medication, whether it is Fabipiravir, Tocilizumab, Remdesivir, or Convalescent Plasma Therapy, has a different response on a different patient,” Dr Bharti added.

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Meanwhile, Dr Aashish Chaudhry, Managing Director of Aakash Healthcare Super-speciality Hospital in New Delhi, said that plasma therapy has proven to be a potential modality for treatment for COVID. However, he also said that more studies would be required to come to any conclusion.

“COVID-19 is a new disease, and all efforts and treatment are directed for patient improvement, plasma therapy is one potential modality of treatment, but more scientific evidence and multicentric trials are still needed before we can completely write off the efficacy of plasma therapy in managing COVID-19,” added Dr Chaudhry. (IANS)

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