Convalescent Plasma Therapy: Can it cure COVID-19?

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Convalescent Plasma Therapy: Can it cure COVID-19?
Convalescent Plasma Therapy: Can it cure COVID-19?

Ever since the COVID-19 pandemic started, many research teams around the world are trying to find its cure and vaccine. Different health experts and researchers are suggesting different remedies to fight against the Coronavirus. One of these is Convalescent Plasma Therapy. Many health professionals are trying it to reduce the severity of COVID-19’s attack.

What is Plasma?

It is a light yellow liquid, which is an integral and essential part of your blood. You may never have thought about Plasma while talking about blood. Red Blood Cells and Platelets are more commonly used terms by the public. But the fact is that Plasma is the largest part of your blood. More than half of your blood (about 55%) is Plasma.

Why is Plasma important?

Plasma has so many uses and health benefits that some health organizations call it “the gift of life.” Here’s why:

  • Plasma carries all parts of your blood through your circulatory system. It also transports hormones, proteins, other nutrients, water, salts, and enzymes to different parts of your body.
  • Cells also discard their waste products into the Plasma. Thus, Plasma also helps remove this waste from the body.
  • Plasma also contains vital components, including antibodies, clotting factors, and the albumin & fibrinogen proteins. All these parts of Plasma can be separated and concentrated into various products. These products are helpful in treatments of shock, trauma, burns, and other medical emergencies.
  • The proteins and antibodies in Plasma are helpful in the treatment of several chronic conditions. These include hemophilia and autoimmune disorders. People with these conditions can live longer and more productive lives because of these treatments.

What is Convalescent Plasma Therapy?

Convalescent Plasma Therapy is not a new invention. It has been used for over 100 years. The idea of using plasma therapy took birth in the late 19th century. Physiologist Emil von Behring and Bacteriologist Kitasato Shibasaburou found out that they could use antibodies present in serum to fight the bacterial infection diphtheria. Serum is also a blood component. In fact, the first Nobel Prize was awarded to Behring for the use of serum to treat diphtheria.

On and off, doctors have been using passive antibody therapy at least since the 1930s. It has been used to treat or prevent bacterial as well as viral infections. These include some forms of pneumonia, measles, and meningitis.

This is the reason that researchers consider the Convalescent Plasma Therapy can help fight against COVID-19.

How does Convalescent Plasma Therapy work?

The principle behind the Convalescent Plasma Therapy is simple. Our blood contains antibodies that protect us from disease-causing pathogens. When people recover from an infection, their blood contains antibodies that have learned to identify and fight the pathogens responsible for that particular infection.

The Plasma in our blood carries these antibodies. Doctors take the Plasma of a person who has recovered from a particular infection and administer it to a patient currently fighting this infectious disease. This helps the patient’s immune system to reject the pathogen more efficiently.

COVID-19 is also an infection caused by a virus. So some researchers believe the Convalescent Plasma Therapy can help the patients of this disease too. While the research and trials are still going on, the results are promising. Many patients have shown positive effects when treated with Convalescent Plasma Therapy. However, so far, we can’t call it a sure-shot treatment to cure all COVID-19 patients.

Use of plasma therapy in previous pandemics

Convalescent plasma therapy has been trialed even during earlier coronavirus outbreaks. A few observational studies were done during the first SARS epidemic in 2003. The studies showed some improvement in patients after receiving convalescent plasma therapy, and no evidence of serious complications. However, most of these studies were just case reports and can’t be taken as full-scale research.

Even during the Ebola virus outbreak in 2013 – 2016, some doctors used convalescent plasma treatment and reported positive reports.

How to donate Plasma for convalescent plasma therapy?

You can donate Plasma at almost all reputable blood banks. You will have to go through a screening process to ensure your blood is safe and healthy. This is similar to the screening done for blood donations. If you pass, your blood will be drawn through a needle placed in a vein in your arm.

Then, a machine will separate your Plasma from the blood. This process is called plasmapheresis. The remaining blood components, including Red Blood Cells, will be returned to your body with a little saline solution.

Who can donate Plasma?

You can donate your Plasma if you are between the ages of 18-60 and have no sickness or comorbidities. You can safely donate your Plasma every 28 days, up to 13 times a year. If you have an AB blood type, then your Plasma is universal. This means that your Plasma can be administered to anyone.

If you want to donate your Plasma for convalescent plasma therapy against COVID-19, you can do so after three weeks of fully recovering from this infection. You must have tested negative for Covid-19 twice.

Find out further eligibility details at https://www.ilbs.in/plasma/.