Latest COVID-19 Treatment in 2021: What is Plasma Therapy?
COVID-19 Treatment. Photo: medlife.com
What is Plasma?
Plasma is the liquid portion of blood that remains when all red and white blood cells and platelets have been removed. It was over a hundred years ago that Emil Behring was awarded the first Nobel prize for physiology and medicine for his work demonstrating that plasma could be used to treat diphtheria.
We now know that the key component of plasma for treating infections is antibodies. Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins that are highly specific for whichever infection a person has previously encountered. They are produced in vast quantities by the B cells of our immune system in order to bind to the invading virus and then target it for destruction. The concept of vaccination relies on stimulating antibody production to infections not yet met. In contrast, using convalescent plasma involves the transfer of antibodies from donors who have already mounted an immune response, thus offering immediate (but transient) protection to the recipient.
Convalescent plasma (kon-vuh-LES-unt PLAZ-muh) therapy uses blood from people who've recovered from an illness to help others recover.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized convalescent plasma therapy for people with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The FDA is allowing its use during the pandemic because there's no approved treatment for Covid-19.
Blood donated by people who've recovered from Covid-19 has antibodies to the virus that causes it. The donated blood is processed to remove blood cells, leaving behind liquid (plasma) and antibodies. These can be given to people with Covid-19 to boost their ability to fight the virus.
What is Plasma Therapy?
According to Medlife, Plasma therapy is a medical procedure that uses the blood of a recovered patient to create antibodies on those infected individuals. Medically known as convalescent plasma therapy, this treatment uses antibodies found in the blood taken from a recovered Covid-19 patient. It is then used to treat those with severe SARS-CoV-2 infection to aid recovery.
Does Plasma Therapy Cure COVID?
|Donated blood and plasma samples to produce therapeutic plasma to treat Covid. Photo: nbcnews.com|
Currently, it has shown positive results in Delhi and Mumbai where COVID cases are spiking high. It has also proven to improve the ability of a person to recover from the disease. However, there is more research required to prove its full efficacy in different patient types.
How Does Plasma Therapy Work?
Convalescent plasma therapy uses antibodies from patients who have completely recovered from COVID-19 infection. Here is how this procedure will fight coronavirus in your body.
- Blood is taken from a previously infected but completely recovered patient, the plasma component of that blood is separated and contains the antibodies against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. This plasma is injected into an infected person’s body that will fight the virus and neutralize it from spreading.
- Once the patient has recovered, he/she will be asked to donate their blood so that their antibodies will be used to treat other infected patients.
- The blood sample will be checked for any existing harmful diseases such as Hepatitis B & C including HIV.
- The recovered blood will be taken into the study and a researcher will extract plasma from the blood that can be injected into an infected person.
Blood has been used to treat many other conditions. It's usually very safe. The risk of getting Covid-19 from convalescent plasma hasn't been tested yet. But researchers believe that the risk is low because donors have fully recovered from the infection.
Convalescent plasma therapy has some risks, reported Mayoclinic, such as:
- Allergic reactions
- Lung damage and difficulty breathing
- Infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C
The risk of such infections is low. Donated blood must be tested for safety. Some people may have mild complications or none at all. Other people may have severe or life-threatening complications.
How to Prepare for the Treatment?
Firstly, a doctor will recommend a convalescent plasma treatment that is suitable for your blood type. Here’s how you need to prepare before treatment and what you must do after treatment.
Before Treatment: Your healthcare professional will assess your health before you undergo the treatment. This procedure involves a health care member who will insert an intravenous/ IV tube into a vein on your arms.
During Treatment: The recovered plasma from a recovered infected person will be attached to the IV tube and supplied to you in drips. It takes 2hours for the procedure to be completed.
After Treatment: You will be monitored by your healthcare specialist and you will have to make frequent visits to the hospital for further assessment by the doctor. Depending on your overall health, your healthcare specialist will decide if you require further hospitalization or not.
Worldwide Use of Plasma Therapy
Plasma therapy is not something new as we may have heard of its use over COVID-19 patients. It is not the first time that it has been recommended by doctors for treating viral infections. Here is a list of other infections that this treatment was recommended for.
|Interesting Facts About Plasma Therapy|
|1918: It was used to treat HIN1 and influenza virus pandemic, popularly known as the Spanish flu.|
|2009: It was used in the treatment of H1N1 infection in 2009.|
|2014: The World Health Organisation (WHO) recommended the use of plasma therapy to treat Ebola patients.|
|2015: It was also recommended to treat the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) which is a type of coronavirus.|
Facts about plasma
Plasma is the largest part of your blood. It makes up more than half (about 55%) of its overall content. When separated from the rest of the blood, plasma is a light yellow liquid. Plasma carries water, salts, and enzymes.
The main role of plasma is to take nutrients, hormones, and proteins to the parts of the body that need it. Cells also put their waste products into the plasma. The plasma then helps remove this waste from the body. Blood plasma also carries all parts of the blood through your circulatory system.
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