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Coronavirus Treatment: ICMR approves plasma therapy for critically-ill COVID-19 patients

Plasma Therapy is an age-old therapy that is used to treat infections such as Ebola virus. 

Apr 10, 2020 12:40 IST
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India may soon begin clinical trials to explore plasma therapy as a potential treatment for severe COVID-19 cases. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) finalised the protocol for conducting convalescent plasma therapy for the treatment of critically ill COVID-19 patients on April 10, 2020.

While speaking at a press conference on April 9, Manoj Murhekar, Director of ICMR’s National Institute of Epidemiology said that they are in the process of finalising the protocol for using plasma therapy on coronavirus patients.

Following this, the medical research council will have to seek approval from the Drugs Controller General of India (DCGI) before conducting any clinical trial.

What is Plasma Therapy?

Plasma Therapy is an age-old therapy that is used to treat infections, especially viral infections. In the therapy, the antibodies of the person who has recovered from the virus are taken and transfused into the critically-ill person to help boost his/ her immune system. The plasma therapy was used to treat patients during the Ebola outbreak. 

Significance

Generally, when a person gets infected, it takes about 5-7 days for the anti-bodies to kick in and help the person fight the virus. However, in case of critically ill patients, by that time, they may get sicker. 

Who will be treated using Plasma Therapy?

The plasma therapy will not be used for all patients. It will only be used to treat only the critically-ill patients, who are on ventilator support. It will not be used for mild or asymptomatic cases. Several countries have conducted limited trials using plasma therapy and have found it to be successful. Kerala may become the first Indian state to start the clinical trials of the therapy among COVID-19 patients after receiving the DGCA nod.

Other efforts to treat COVID-19

According to Health Secretary Lav Agarwal, two CSIR labs have started working on genomic sequencing to understand the evolution of the COVID-19 virus. The two labs include:

1.  Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology in Hyderabad

2.  Institute of Genomics and Integrative Biology in New Delhi 

Background

A group of Chinese researchers had recently published a study, in which they reported that plasma therapy could be a promising rescue option for severely ill COVID-19 patients.

According to researchers, plasma therapy was used to treat 10 severely critical adult patients in Wuhan in China. 

The result showed that infusion of the plasma was well-tolerated and it could significantly increase or maintain the neutralizing antibodies at a high level, resulting in patients showing improvement in their symptoms. 

However, the patients were receiving other antiviral treatment as well, which could have added to the recovery of the patients or added to the therapeutic effect of the plasma. 

Due to the absence of any potential drug or vaccine, many countries including the US and China have started clinical trials to test plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients. 

The ICMR has tested 1,30,000 samples so far in India, among which 5,734 have tested positive as of April 10, 2020. The rate of positive cases continues to range between 3-5 percent. 

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