Plasma Exchange & Plasma Therapy Might Help Fight COVID-19 

With nearly 2.75 million cases already and over 190,000 deaths to coronavirus infection globally, the world seems to have become helpless in its battle against the COVID-19 pandemic.

Scientists are scrambling for vaccines, drugs and other ways that could aid treatment against the novel coronavirus. With no surety of a definite treatment in sight, doctors around the world are dusting off a century-old treatment for infection. Infusion of plasma teeming with immune molecules might help survivors beat the disease. On April 16, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) approved a clinical trial for plasma therapy for the seriously-ill COVID-19 patients.

Plasma therapy is not a new treatment. It dates back to 1890 when it was first discovered by German physiologist Emil Von Behring. He was honoured with the Nobel Prize for Medicine. Very recently, plasma therapy has been used to treat patients of diseases like SARS in 2003 as well as MERS in 2013.

Immunity develops early in asymptomatic or people with mild symptoms and later in seriously-ill COVID-19 patients.

ICMR has given permission to Kerala’s Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) to begin convalescent plasma therapy. SCTIMST is expected to start trial by the end of April after receiving approval from the Drug Controller General of India and the Ethics Committee.

The Delhi Government has sought and received approval of the Centre to conduct plasma therapy clinical trials in critically ill patients as a form of compassionate testing. The Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences in New Delhi has received approval to conduct the trial. Other institutes of Chandigarh and Pune have applied to ICMR for permission.

Therapeutic Plasma Exchange (TPE) is a process of removal from circulation of abnormal substances, which are either present in plasma or are tightly bound to plasma proteins. Plasma of COVID-19 patients contains enormous inflammatory mediators, which cause severe lung injury. Therapeutic plasma exchange reduces Cytokine Storm and will help in recovery.



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