Does plasma therapy work in treatment with COVID-19?
Without an approved antiviral treatment plan for fatal COVID-19 infection, plasma therapy is an experimental approach to treat COVID-positive patients and help them recover faster. The therapy, considered safe and promising, has been used in various parts of India and the world. Plasma banks have also been established throughout Delhi, with recovered COVID patients encouraged to actively come forward and donate plasma. It can be done frequently as it does not pose any danger or make a person deficient in any way. Frozen plasma can also be stored and used for a longer space. However, although plasma therapy has good success rates, not all COVID patients can donate plasma.
How does plasma therapy help?
A recovered COVID positive patient is considered to get enough protein, called an antibody in their blood, to help the body fight infection from the root. Therefore, plasma cells, which contain antibodies, could help critically ill patients obtain antibodies to fight COVID-19 infection when their bodies cannot, and therefore speed up the recovery rate, especially for those that belong to a high risk category, or higher or are immunocompromised.
Studies say convalescent plasma therapy may also help provide short-term immunity against the COVID-19 virus.
Who can or cannot donate?
Although therapy is extremely effective, plasma donation has a certain limitation as to who can and cannot donate. Only people who weigh more than 50 kilograms, women who are nulliparous (have not had children), have healthy hemoglobin levels, do not have pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, uncontrolled blood pressure levels can donate plasma. People who are HIV positive, Hepatitis B, C, E and HTLV-1, who are suffering from cancer, are also asked to refrain from donating.
Donating plasma to women can be extremely complex since women who have a child or have low hemoglobin levels cannot donate plasma. Experts say that during pregnancy, the body develops antibodies to human leukocyte antigen (HLA), which can cause complications, such as TRALI, a type of transfusion reaction, and increase the risk of serious lung damage and scarring, which is already a dreaded prognosis of a COVID infection Similarly, for those with pre-existing medical conditions, compromised immunity and the risk of infection could make it problematic for them to donate plasma.
What is the procedure for plasma donation?
A potential plasma donor, who has recovered from COVID-19 (and has no symptoms for 14 days) can deposit plasma in a certified bank once the specific tests and requirements are met. Currently, people between the ages of 18-50 can donate. Plasma collected from one person is then transfused into two patients with COVID. Unlike regular blood donation, plasma donors tend to donate about half a liter of blood for transfusion with the help of a single-use disposable apheresis kit. Once the plasma donation is made, the machine only holds the plasma and returns all the red blood cells and other components of the blood. The individual ends up gaining blood plasma 24-72 hours after the trip and experiences little or no stress.