Uddhav Thackeray launches Project Platina: Antibody therapy to treat COVID-19 begets hope of cure before a vaccine is developed

Till the time we have a mass-scale cure for COVID-19 in place, treatments like plasma therapy are still better than waiting for the body's immune system to take over.

Myupchar June 30, 2020 16:30:38 IST
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Uddhav Thackeray launches Project Platina: Antibody therapy to treat COVID-19 begets hope of cure before a vaccine is developed

The rising number of new confirmed cases have been ample warning of a dark truth: we're fighting an uphill battle against COVID-19 and we’re all scared of the consequences. We're hoping against hope for an immediate cure since we know that our current healthcare facilities are not up to the task of handling the predicted increase in cases.

In such a time, plasma therapy has come into focus as a real need for a developing nation like India, which is reeling under the economic, health and logistical strain of COVID-19. On 29 June, Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray launched the world’s largest plasma trial, called Project Platina which will formally collect data to help support the treatment of COVID-19 by this method. In Delhi, the government is reportedly setting up a plasma bank and officials are encouraging recovered patients to come forward to donate.

What is plasma therapy?

Plasma therapy or convalescent plasma therapy involves transfusion of blood plasma, the yellow viscose liquid in our veins. This liquid carries not only necessary nutrients but also antibodies which help us fight infections caused by pathogens, like COVID-19.

When a COVID-19 recovered patient donates this plasma within the ideal donation window (14-28 days after a COVID-19 negative test which proves they've recovered), this plasma carries IgM and IgG antibodies that can improve a patient's immune response drastically.

As discussed though, we have a public healthcare system that is ill-equipped to handle the magnitude of patients due to this global outbreak. Due to this reason, our healthcare offerings are very, very low and their cost is very, very high. Availability of beds, drugs, doctors and other resources is dwindling, and the queue of patients, especially critical patients, is only growing longer and longer.

On the brighter said, we also have a higher recovery rate than many of our neighbouring nations -- proving that we can capitalise on these recoveries to improve the chances for the rest.

Risks, costs and concerns

The first positive aspect of plasma treatment for COVID-19 is the cost factor involved. At a time when stronger, anti-viral medical therapies approved to treat the infection (like Remdesivir) are costly, plasma therapy is comparatively cost-effective, as the primary constituent is a voluntary donation. The cost of consumables is around Rs 10,000 to Rs 12,000, though hospital care would be an added cost.

As far as risks go, they're associated with the quality of the donation (whether the donor has had a recent recovery or not) and the capabilities of the facility and staff involved in the procedure. There is also a minor chance of the patient's body rejecting the antibodies as their body can treat them as foreign antigens.

We also need to know that this treatment is not for everyone, especially not for asymptomatic patients or those who have mild symptoms. It is only advised for moderate to critical patients.

Till the time we have a mass-scale cure for COVID-19 in place, treatments like plasma therapy are still better than waiting for the body's immune system to take over.

This article was written by Dr Vinodkumar Badgu, managing director of Badgu Health Services Pvt Ltd. which works on distilling and separating blood plasma.

For more information, read our article on Passive Antibody Therapy.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health.

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