23 Jul Convalescent Plasma Therapy: Hope for Covid Patients?
Suddenly India is excited about Convalescent Plasma Therapy. Does it offer a ray of hope for the elderly and other vulnerable COVID patients?
Since the onset of the pandemic, we’ve been advised to shield our elderly parents and relatives from exposure to the infection. Why? – because the elderly usually have low immunity against infectious diseases. Apparently, convalescent plasma therapy can effectively increase their immunity, and thereby their chances of survival when attacked by the deadly COVID. To understand this concept, we must first understand how immunity works.
How does immunity work?
In simple terms, immunity is the ability of the body to fight back. When attacked by germs, our body generates its own soldiers, called antibodies. These antibodies that flow through the bloodstream, are programmed to attack the specific enemy, the germ that has invaded the body. The elderly and other vulnerable people have a reduced ability to generate effective antibodies.
So can we give antibodies to those that cannot generate them?
We can! In fact, that is the whole idea of convalescent plasma therapy – extract antibodies from people who have recovered from the disease and give them to those who are ailing from the same disease. Such external reinforcements of antibodies may help the patient fight back. However, we are still not 100% certain about the efficacy of this method of treatment or the risks associated with it.
So how is this a ray of hope?
Nonetheless, convalescent plasma therapy does offer a ray of hope. This is because, at the time of publication of this article, at least one patient in India is known to have recovered from a critical COVID condition by use of this therapy. Moreover, this therapy has been used in the past, with a reasonable degree of success, to treat patients infected with the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and H1N1 influenza virus (Spanish flu).
Little surprise, therefore, that chief ministers of several states are encouraging recovered COVID victims to donate their blood plasma for possible use in plasma therapy.
Why isn’t the world actively adopting convalescent plasma therapy?
As mentioned before, plasma therapy is still a subject of research. Apparently, there are a few risks associated with the procedure, not the least of which is the chance of passing on other blood diseases. Besides, in the case of the ebola virus, convalescent plasma therapy failed to yield satisfying results.
Given that the world’s community of researchers is working on a war footing to find a quick solution to the COVID menace, we can hope that we will shortly learn more about the possibility of using this process more widely in our battle against COVID as well as future pandemics. Meanwhile, keeping our senior citizens safely indoors is still our best bet.
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