Watch: How plasma therapy is used to treat COVID-19

Dr Ram Gopal Krishna, a consultant with Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, also explains why the treatment is used for critical COVID-19 patients.
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In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many experts are looking to better understand the use of convalescent plasma (CP) therapy to treat individuals who have been diagnosed with the deadly virus. Dr Ram Gopal Krishna, an infectious diseases expert, who works at Apollo Hospitals in Chennai, explains how plasma therapy is thought to help those who are sick.

“Convalescent plasma, refers to plasma taken from individuals who are recovering. Plasma is the part of blood that is left when red blood cells are removed from the blood,” explains the doctor in a video.

Plasma contains important white blood cells and other components which aid immunity. This form of therapy, which was earlier tried in Africa, on people who had contracted the Ebola virus, is now being looked into as a possible treatment option for individuals who have contracted the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.

Blood donations made by individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 are taken and the plasma is separated from the rest of the blood. The plasma contains antibodies which have been formed against SARS-CoV-2. The idea behind this treatment form is to infuse sick individuals with these antibodies, which would then aid the immune system in fighting the coronavirus.

The antibodies are produced against the virus as part of an immune response. In really sick individuals with the infection, there is a delay in the production of the antibodies. These individuals can benefit from plasma therapy wherein they are given the antibodies from someone who has already recovered.

“We take out antibodies which mediate this immune response and give it to a patient with severe infection, who has not yet formed antibodies or those antibodies are not good enough to kill off the virus and help them get better,” says the doctor.

“Treatment cost— it is anticipated that the cost of plasma therapy will not be as high as some of the drugs we use to treat COVID-19. Some of these drugs are patented and are very expensive. Whereas, plasma therapy is like a blood transfusion almost. It is anticipated that the cost will not be very high and that most Indian private and public hospital systems should be able to afford this,” states the doctor in the video.

Several states have already begun offering plasma therapy on a clinical trial basis only. The Indian Council of Medical Research has yet to approve this as an effective therapy against the disease. The Union Health Ministry has stated that in lieu of evidence proving that plasma therapy is effective, it can only be done on an experimental basis until further studies were approved. States such as Karnataka and Telangana in the south have already begun taking measures to use plasma therapy on affected individuals.

Watch the full video here:

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