Convalescent Plasma Therapy: Convalescent plasma therapy (kon-vuh-LES-unt PLAZ-muh) became an experimental research that is used by certain physicians for people with chronic coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). This has been a challenging issue for researchers and policy makers to find a way to eliminate it after the extremely infectious novel coronavirus COVID-19 has infected humans.
As of now, where no other alternative at hand, the unique way to contain the spread of this virus is by trying to stay indoors as much as possible. The concept behind it is that if fewer people come in contact with each other, the transmission of the virus may hopefully stop.
As of 29th June, 2020, the coronavirus has infected around 10,242,932 people, out of which more than 5 lakh people are from India alone. While the scientists still work day and night to produce a vaccine for COVID-19, another option that is being focused upon is convalescent plasma therapy in COVID-19 treatment.
What Is Convalescent Plasma Therapy?
Plasma is the liquid part of the blood, and convalescence refers to the process of recovering from an illness. When we fall prey to any disease or infection, our immune system produces proteins and antibodies to fight off that disease and relieve us get cured. Antibodies are molecules that can recognize and fight the infection-causing germs like the coronavirus. These antibodies are obtained in the plasma.
How Is Convalescent Plasma Therapy Done?
The first step of this process is to collect the blood from the recovered people. The FDA has ruled out certain requirements regarding who can donate blood for this purpose. Once the blood is collected, it undergoes a safety test following which the doctors separate the plasma from the blood of the recovered patients through a centrifugal process.
After that, a serological test is conducted on the blood to get an idea of the number of antibodies that the blood may have. Researchers estimate that the blood of a single donor may produce sufficient antibodies to help treat around 2-4 patients. Ultimately, the plasma is transfused into the body of the person being treated.
Why Is Convalescent Plasma Therapy Considered So Promising?
This 100 year old treatment method has successfully treated diseases like measles, polio and chickenpox. In fact, this method has been observed to have helped in previous outbreaks of SARS in 2003, H1N1 influenza virus in 2009-2010 and MERS of 2012.
In two recent studies in China, convalescent plasma therapy was performed on severely ill COVID-19 patients. In one study, five severely ill COVID-19 patients who additionally had acute respiratory distress syndrome recovered entirely. In the second study, 10 patients with COVID-19 received the therapy and showed improvement in their symptoms and didn’t exhibit any severe side effects.
However, since both these studies were performed on very small cohorts, the need for clinical trials remains significant to prove the effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in COVID-19 treatment.
CPT (Plasma Therapy): The Ongoing Procedure
At the daily press conference hosted by the Health Ministry, Indian Council for Medical Research (ICMR) said that it was finalizing the protocol for Convalescent Plasma Therapy. The protocols will then be shared with the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for the final approval. Once the approvals are received, the clinical trials to check its safety and effectiveness will initiate.
In case the clinical trials are successful, this will be rolled out for patients with severe symptoms of COVID-19, not for people with mild symptoms.
The Convalescent Plasma Therapy procedure may not only most effectively treat people with severe symptoms, but may also prevent the worsening of symptoms in people who are moderately sick.
However, it is noteworthy that the Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19 treatment is still being experimented and has not yet been approved as a treatment protocol.