All you need to know about plasma therapy

Plasma therapy, a silver lining: Here's all you need to know

Representative image. Credit: iStock

Plasma therapy is emerging as a silver lining amidst the Covid-19 crisis, says Dr Vinodkumar Bagdu, one of India's leading medical health experts in plasma therapy.

Plasma therapy can boost immunity in Covid-19 patients, says Dr Badgu of Bagdu Health Services Pvt Ltd,  which distils blood plasma from blood donations collected at various blood banks.

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"We've been talking about the need for government support for plasma therapy for some time. The Mayo study proves how convalescent plasma therapy, which has been successful against Influenza and Ebola, will work in this case too. I hope that the ICMR and government step forward to support it alongside other modes of treatment for coronavirus",  he noted.

"Plasma therapy is emerging as a silver lining in these bleak times, especially for those patients who're severely hurt by the coronavirus crisis. Transfering readymade doses of immunity to those struggling for it is a logical step forward, instead of waiting for the virus cycle to finish in 14 days," Dr Bagdu said.

While the world waits for the first round of drugs against Covid-19 to prove their worth, states like Maharashtra, Delhi, Karnataka, Kerala and Gujarat have already stepped up to provide plasma to those who need it.

Explaining the basics of plasma therapy, he said it is medically known as Convalescent Plasma Therapy and revolves around collecting convalescent plasma or the liquid part of the blood from blood donors.

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What is plasma? How does it help those fighting coronavirus?

"The idea behind the treatment is to extract blood bearing Covid-19 antibodies from patients who've survived the bout and provide them to those who're still struggling against it. Specifically, blood plasma from these coronavirus survivors is rich in IgM and IgG antibodies for the Covid-19 virus, which developed in their immune system. These patients, who now hold a clean bill of health, would help those fighting against the disease and prepare their immunity."

Blood plasma, a yellow viscose fluid, is the sole carrier of essential nutrients, hormones and proteins across the body. It also delivers salt, water and enzymes from one part to another. So, it includes antibodies, clotting factors, and proteins like albumin and fibrinogen, which can be separated and used as therapies for those suffering from trauma, shock, burns, immune deficiency disorders (including HIV) and rare chronic conditions.

The plasma, in this case, is ideally harvested from survivors, who've won their battle against the virus and now carry antibodies against it.

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Who can donate blood plasma?

A study by NHS Blood and Transplant (UK) found that men make for ideal plasma donors for Covid-19 plasma therapy.

Based on plasma from nearly 600 Covid-19 survivors, they discovered that blood from male donors had a higher share of antibodies (43%)  compared to plasma from women (29%).

Medically, plasma donors should be between 18-65 years with Covid-19 status negative, checked twice.

The cooldown period after infection is a minimum of two weeks and the donor should be negative for blood-transmitted infections like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and HIV.

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How much does plasma therapy cost?

"If I talk about this specific treatment itself, the patient needs to bear the cost of materials used for the transfusion (consumables like bags, tubes, etc.). This cost would be between Rs 10,000 - Rs 12,000 approximately. As the main constituent for the process, plasma, is a voluntary donation, there are no costs for it.

Patient care before, during and after the process may be an additional cost to bear," said Dr Bagdu.