November 27 2020 at 04:19 PM by Samikshya Joshi
Covid-19 is everywhere. Recent update according to The Times Of India, India’s Covid-19 tally was 92.66 lakh as of November 27th, 2020. There is a fear for the third wave as winter intensifies. So it is very necessary to take precautions. Today we talk about plasma therapy for Covid-19.
WHAT IS PLASMA THERAPY
People who have recovered from COVID-19 develop natural defenses in their blood (antibodies). Antibodies are found in part of the blood called plasma. Plasma from blood donated from recovered patients, which contains COVID-19 antibodies, can be used to make two preparations. Firstly, convalescent plasma, which is plasma that contains these antibodies. Secondly, hyperimmune immunoglobulin, which is more concentrated, and therefore contains more antibodies.
Convalescent plasma and hyperimmune immunoglobulin have been used successfully to treat other respiratory viruses. These treatments (given by a drip or injection) are generally well-tolerated, but unwanted effects similar to those from standard plasma transfusion can occur. The FDA has granted temporary authorization to convalescent plasma as an experimental treatment in cases where the person's life is seriously or immediately threatened.
HISTORY OF PLASMA THERAPY
The use of plasma to treat patients is not new and has been used successfully to treat patients infected with another coronavirus, namely Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that range from the common cold to more critical viruses like MERS and SARS. These viruses come from animals and can sometimes transmit from animals to humans, which is called a spillover event. However, these are rare cases, as a lot of different factors have to align in perfection for that to happen. In the case of COVID-19, they did. The use of plasma therapy dates back to the 1900s when first Nobel Prize awardee Emil von Behring developed a cure for diphtheria by injecting infected patients with antibodies taken from animals.
In 1918, when the Spanish flu became a pandemic similar to COVID-19, plasma therapy was used. It was particularly useful when a person was injected in the early days of their illness. During the Ebola epidemic that started in 2013, plasma therapy was again used to treat patients as the development of vaccines always takes time. The first vaccine was approved in the US in 2019, but it is a preventive measure. There is still no cure for the disease. During the SARS pandemic in 2003, it spread to 26 countries and caused 8,000 deaths. In some cases, plasma from recovered patients was used to treat those who were infected. Seventeen years later, there is still no vaccine or cure for SARS.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN VACCINES AND PLASMA THERAPY
When the human body is infected by an intruder, it makes antibodies to fight it. Antibodies are proteins produced by the body to neutralize or destroy toxins or disease-carrying organisms, and they are made specifically to fight that one type of disease. In order for a person to fight the disease and not get sick in the future, the antibodies help the body achieve immunity to the disease.
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ACTIVE VACCINATION AND PASSIVE VACCINATION
There are some illnesses that a person can become immune to having the disease. For example, in the case of chickenpox or measles, the immune system of the person creates antibodies to fight the disease. This process of gaining immunity against a certain disease where the immune system creates antibodies is called active vaccination. In other words, active immunity results when a person’s immune system works to produce antibodies and activate other immune cells to certain pathogens. If the person encounters that pathogen again, long-lasting immune cells specific to it will already be primed to fight it.
Another way to gain immunity against a certain disease is through taking antibodies from a person who has already been inflicted with the disease and introducing their antibodies into another person's system to protect them from the disease. In other words, passive immunity results when a person is given someone else’s antibodies. When these antibodies are introduced into the person’s body, the “loaned” antibodies help prevent or fight certain infectious diseases.
KEY DIFFERENCES BETWEEN ACTIVE AND PASSIVE VACCINATION
In active vaccination, a person's immune system is triggered to produce required antibodies while in passive vaccination, the 'ready-made' antibodies specific to one disease are administered.
YOU CAN DONATE PLASMA IF:
· Your age is between 18-65 years.
· Your weight is 50kgs or above.
· You have recovered from Covid-19 disease with complete resolution of symptoms at least 4 week back.
YOU CANNOT DONATE PLASMA IF:
· Suffering from any other diseases like hypertension, diabetes etc.
· You have chronic kidney/heart/lung/liver diseases.
PLASMA THERAPY IN INDIA:
There have been mixed responses to plasma therapy in India. The therapy is costly for common people, but thanks to the government it is free of cost in government hospitals. Kerala's Sree Chitra Tirunal Institute for Medical Sciences and Technology (SCTIMST) has been given the nod of approval by the ICMR to begin convalescent plasma therapy.