Despite Being Experimental, Demand for Blood Plasma is High
While demand for plasma therapy remains high, these people are helping connect donors to patients
While still in clinical trial stage, demand for blood plasma to treat more moderate to serious patients of COVID-19 remains high. Social media is flooded with requests to connect donors to patients. But finding donors has been difficult. The reason being, the donor has to be a recovered COVID patient who has completed 28 days of recovery, and meets certain medical criteria, besides matching the blood group.
Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is conducting clinical trials across various hospitals in the country to test if convalescent plasma therapy helps treat COVID patients. The treatment remains experimental.
But as per the latest drug protocol issued by the Ministry of Health, off-label use of plasma therapy to treat some patients is permitted.
Building a bridge between a donor and a patient are websites like Dhoondh.com and KAB Welfare Foundation.
Aditya Mal, along with his friend Mukul Pawah started Dhoondh.com after going through a personal experience.
"My father-in-law was recovering from COVID. He needed to be hospitalised and moved to the ICU. Doctors asked us to search for a donor. We started looking desperately via Whatsapp, Facebook, Twitter etc. It took is 4 days to find a donor. In between we found someone, but the donor was not eligible. Fortunately, we did find a donor and he recovered. But we realised that what we had gone through, other families must be facing similar problems."
In plasma therapy, plasma from a recovered patient is given to those in moderate stages of the disease, in the hope that it will help create antibodies in the body to help fight the infection.
Plasma is the largest component of human blood and contains water, salts, enzymes, proteins and antibodies.
For Vivek Jain, head, KAB Welfare Foundation, helping connect donors was a natural extension of the work they were already doing in blood donation.
"We connect donors to patients. The demand has been high but due to certain government policies, it's difficult to procure plasma."
A new guideline for home quarantine patients in Delhi does not require a COVID negative report once the patient has completed 17 days of isolation. Hospitals still ask for one positive and two negative reports before accepting patients as donors.
Dhoondh (meaning search) started in June and already 733 patients and 186 donors have registered. But as Mal says, the problem remains in convincing donors to come forward.
"The biggest problem we face is in finding a donor. If you see the statistics, those who need plasma are far less than those who have recovered. But donors are not coming forward. I don't blame them. COVID is scary, and if someone has been through it, they will really think before entering a hospital again."
For now, these organisations are creating a platform for people to connect. Finally, a doctor will decide if the donor works for the patient.
It's important to remember, plasma therapy is no magic bullet. There is no guarantee a patient will recover based just on plasma therapy.
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