In convalescent plasma therapy, antibodies from the blood of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are used to treat severely infected patients

A man admitted at a private hospital in Delhi for COVID-19 has shown improvement after being treated with the convalescent plasma of a recovered coronavirus patient.

The 49-year-old man was admitted to COVID facility at Max Hospital in Saket on April 4 with moderate symptoms and a history of fever and respiratory issues. He was shifted to a ventilator after his condition worsened. When the patient showed no improvement in his condition, his family requested the hospital for administration of plasma therapy on compassionate grounds.

A healthy person who has recovered from COVID-19 and has spent 14 days in isolation after recovery was needed for the therapy. The family arranged the donor and the patient was injected with fresh plasma on April 14. Four days later on April 18, the oxygen support was removed and the patient was shifted to ward from the ICU after he showed significant improvement. 

"After receiving the treatment, the patient showed progressive improvement and by fourth day, was weaned off ventilator support on the morning of April 18th, Saturday and continued on supplementary oxygen, thereafter. He has been shifted to a room with round-the-clock monitoring at present. He has started taking oral feed since Sunday and is faring well," the hospital said.

This is said to be the first clinical trial of plasma therapy and its result has encouraged doctors in the treatment of serious patients. Convalescent plasma as a viable treatment for COVID-19 patients is still at an experimental stage.

Speaking on the success of the first case administered under Plasma Therapy, Dr Sandeep Budhiraja, Group Medical Director – Max Healthcare & Senior Director - Institute of Internal Medicine, said, “We are delighted that the therapy worked well in his case, opening a new treatment opportunity during these challenging times. But it is important that we also understand that Plasma Therapy is no magic bullet. During the patient’s treatment at Max Hospital, Saket, other standard treatment protocols were followed and we can say that Plasma Therapy could have worked as a Catalyst in speeding up his recovery. We cannot attribute 100% recovery to Plasma Therapy only, as there are multiple factors which carved his path to recovery.”

“In a country like India, a therapy of such kind has a good potential to help COVID patients who have disease severity which fits into moderate to severe category. Government regulations should work towards making it more accessible for hospitals across the country to be able to use it. One donor can donate 400ml of Plasma which can save two lives, as 200ml is sufficient to treat one patient,” he said.

The patient is now doing well and his two consecutive COVID tests have come negative, the hospital said.

What Is Plasma Therapy?

In convalescent plasma therapy, antibodies from the blood of patients who have recovered from COVID-19 are used to treat severely infected patients.

The convalescent plasma of a person recovered from a disease contains antibody, a protective protein produced by the immune system in response to the presence of a foreign substance such as a virus. The plasma of such a person contains a higher number of antibodies. The therapy involves using convalescent plasma of a person who has recovered to treat a patient.

The treatment is used only on serious patients.

Use of convalescent plasma has been studied in outbreaks of other respiratory infections, including the 2003 SARS-CoV-1 outbreak, the 2009-2010 H1N1 influenza virus pandemic, and the 2012 MERS-CoV epidemic.

The trials for COVID-19 treatment using plasma therapy are being carried out by different countries and have shown promising results. Scientists are yet to deem it a safe and effective treatment for COVID19. 

Clinical Trial of Plasma Therapy In India 

As per the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) guidelines, hospitals and institutions planning to provide this treatment should do so in a clinical trial with protocols which are cleared by the Institutional Ethics Committee.

At this moment, the ICMR does not recommend this as a treatment option outside of clinical trials.

The study is aimed at assessing the efficacy of convalescent plasma to limit complications in COVID-19 patients and to evaluate the safety of treatment with anti-SARS-CoV-2 plasma in coronavirus-infected patients. 

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) has received applications from institutes expressing interest in participating in a randomised controlled study to assess the safety and efficacy of plasma therapy.