All you need to know about convalescent plasma therapy

These antibodies are capable of fighting with the virus that causes illness and also helps in faster recovery

By Author  |  Published: 2nd Jul 2020  6:30 pm

Plasma Therapy is also known as Convalescent Plasma Therapy. Plasma is the yellowish liquid in the component of blood. It is said that from a recovered patient of Covid-19 antibodies can be helpful to fight the disease when infused into the bodies of another infected person or a person suffering from Covid. These antibodies are capable of fighting with the virus that causes illness and also helps in faster recovery. Convalescent blood is an option if there are no medicines or vaccines to treat an infectious disease. In 1892, the first trial was done for diphtheria by using the serum from animals.

How does the therapy work

  • The convalescent plasma therapy uses antibodies developed within an infected person while he/she is infected with the novel coronavirus. These antibodies are developed in a patient as part of the body’s natural immune response to a foreign pathogen or in this case, the novel coronavirus. 
  • These antibodies are highly specific to the invading pathogen and so, work to eliminate the novel coronavirus from the patient’s body. Once the patient has recovered, they donate their blood so that their antibodies can be used to treat other patients. The donated blood is then checked for the presence of any other disease-causing agents such as Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV etc.
  • If deemed safe, the blood is then taken through a process to extract ‘plasma’, the liquid part of the blood that contains antibodies. The antibody-rich plasma, once extracted, is then ingested into the body of a patient under treatment.

Risk involved

Besides speaking about the success of the plasma therapy, the study by John Hopkins immunologists stated some of the risks associated with it:

1. Transfer of blood substances: As the blood transfusion takes place, there are risks that an inadvertent infection might get transferred to the patient.

2. Enhancement of infection: The therapy might fail for some patients and can result in an enhanced form of the infection.

3. Effect on immune system: The antibody administration may end up suppressing the body’s natural immune response, leaving a Covid-19 patient vulnerable to subsequent re-infection.

Plasma Therapy and Covid

Plasma therapy’s potential as treatment for Covid-19 has already been explored in limited trial in China, where the outbreak first emerged. In one trial, 10 critically-ill Covid-19 patients were subject to convalescent plasma therapy. The trial showed some improvement in patients’ condition.

India’s first Plasma Bank

Delhi has set up a plasma bank to pool in blood rich in virus-fighting antibodies. According to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal the plan will help critically ill patients of the coronavirus disease have better access to one of the most effective treatment options yet.

The plasma bank will operate largely like a blood bank and will be set up at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS) Hospital in south Delhi. Patients in government and private hospitals in Delhi can approach it with a recommendation from a doctor, the CM said.