'No evidence plasma therapy can be used for COVID-19'

No evidence yet to support that plasma therapy can be used for coronavirus treatment: Health Ministry

The official said that the doubling rate of coronavirus cases now stands at 10.2 days. (Credit: Reuters Photo)

Centre on Tuesday cautioned on indiscriminate use of convalescent plasma therapy to treat COVID-19 patients amid gushing endorsement of the procedure by political leaders.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) made it clear that convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) was one of the several “emerging therapies” for COVID-19, but there was no “robust evidence” to support it for “routine therapy”.

“The ICMR is conducting an experimental study on the efficacy of plasma therapy as a treatment for COVID-19. Till the study is approved, no one should use it, it can be harmful to the patient, it would also be illegal,” Lav Aggarwal, Joint Secretary, Health Ministry told reporters here.

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The caution from the top medical research body came on a day when the total number of COVID-19 cases rose to 29,974 and the death toll increased by 51 to touch 937. According to the Health Ministry, there were 22,010 active cases of COVID-19 and 7,027 patients had recovered from the illness, taking the recovery rate to 23.44 per cent.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and some AAP leaders came out enthusiastically in support of CPT after four patients at the Delhi government-run hospital recovered and similar “success stories” were reported from private hospitals.

Kejriwal also issued a public appeal to patients who had recovered from COVID-19 to donate blood to administer CPT on seriously ill patients. There was also a rush for plasma donation in Mumbai.

Tablighi Jamaat members, who were accused as super spreaders of the disease, too came forward to donate blood plasma to treatment of seriously ill Covid-19 patients, following an appeal from their leader.

The CPT involves transfusion of blood plasma of a recovered person to a seriously ill patient. Initial experiments of CPT have shown promising results, but the method was yet to be scientifically validated.

“We should use this therapy only for trial and study purposes. In fact, if the plasma therapy is not used as per the prescribed guidelines it could cause life-threatening complications,” Aggarwal said.

“Currently, there are no approved, definitive therapies for Covid-19. Convalescent plasma is one of the several emerging therapies. However, there is no robust evidence to support it for routine therapy. The US FDA has also viewed it as an experimental therapy,” the ICMR said.

“There are also several risks of using this therapy including life-threatening allergic reactions and lung injury,” the ICMR said adding that it had initiated multi-centre clinical trials evaluate safety and efficacy of using the therapy in Covid-19 patients in India.