Plasma therapy, Sanjeevani for Covid with unexplored potential

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BY ANANYA BHATNAGAR
New Delhi, June 22 (IANS)
Even as the plasma therapy turned out to be a “Sanjeevani” for Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain and many other patients battling the Covid-19 pandemic, the therapy still remains as an unexplored path in order to cure Coronavirus.
Though the therapy has remained fairly successful in a few cases, there is still a question mark on its large scale usage to cure the Covid-19 which has already taken close to 14,000 lives across India.
Speaking to IANS, Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director, Max Healthcare, said, “This is not a new therapy and has been used in the treatment of other viral infections such as Spanish Flu and SARS outbreaks. However, for Covid-19 treatment, plasma therapy is still in experimental phase but we have encouraging results.”
It is believed that people who have recovered from the coronavirus develop natural defences to the disease in their blood (antibodies). Antibodies are found in parts of the blood called plasma.
Plasma in blood donated from recovered patients contains COVID-19 antibodies, which can be used to make two preparations – first, convalescent plasma, which is plasma that contains these antibodies and second, 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 can occur.
Explaining about the success rate of this therapy and as to why it isn’t being used widely to treat Covid-19 patients, Dr Rahul Bhargava, Director and Head, Haematology and Bone Marrow Transplant, Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Gurugram, said that the success rate of the Plasma Therapy “is not very certain.”
Dr Bhargava said that the studies available are not full proof and their results could be related to the natural progression of the disease, other treatments that the participants received, or to convalescent plasma.
“Our searches found 48 ongoing studies: 47 on evaluating convalescent plasma and one on evaluating hyperimmu. There will have to be more such studies to solidify that plasma therapy can treat Covid 19 patients successfully. Therefore not a lot of medical service providers have taken up the therapy for treatment,” Dr Bhargava said.
While plasma remains one method, there are many other ways which are being looked upon to deal with the fast spreading virus. “Various ant-viral drugs are in different stages of testing and clinical trials globally. The scientific world is racing to find a cure for Covid-19. Some drugs are showing greater promise and are being used in the treatment of patients,” Dr Budhiraja said.
Explaining further on these drugs, Budhiraja said Favipiravir is a drug, which is used to treat patients who are in the early stages of the disease. Another drug, which is showing a lot of promise, is Remdesivir, which is used on patients who have moderate or moderately severe symptoms of the disease.
Both these drugs are in clinical trials, however the DGCI and ICMR have recently allowed the off-label use of these drugs on Indian patients.
“The patients are required to give an informed consent before the drug can be used. Some patients develop an inflammatory reaction called a “cytokine storm”, in which their own immune cells start attacking organs of the body. A drug called Tocilizumab is also used on patients who are facing this condition,” he said.
Recent studies have also highlighted the use of a steroid called Dexamethasone in some sick patients. The use of HCQS has also been seen to have benefited some patients.
In mild cases, only symptomatic treatment is required and the patient recovers on his own.
There is no definite treatment of Covid-19 available yet. Clinicians are using these therapies in combination and depending upon the patient’s condition to save their lives, Budhiraja added.
While on the other hand, Dr Bhargava said, “The treatment depends largely on the severity of the disease. The patients are treated as per the symptoms they exhibit. Oxygen therapy is given for the moderate case and severe cases will require prone position and ventilator support and Remdesivir.”
Recently, Delhi Health Minister Satyendar Jain’s health condition improved after receiving the plasma therapy.
On Friday, the 55-year-old AAP leader’s health deteriorated after he developed pneumonia during the ongoing treatment for Covid-19 at the Rajiv Gandhi Super Speciality hospital.
He was then shifted to the Max hospital and administered plasma therapy. He is, however, still on oxygen support in an ICU ward.
A close friend of Jain said, “Satyendar Jain has been given plasma therapy, after which his fever has come down.”
He added, “Apart from this, he has no problem in breathing. On the advice of doctors, he will be kept in ICU for another 24 hours.”
The national capital is all set to touch the 60,000 mark on the Corona tally with 59,746 cases including 2,175 deaths.