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Plasma Not A Magic Cure, But May Help: We Took A Plasma Bank Tour

Coronavirus | Everything one needs to know about plasma therapy and donation. 

Updated
India
3 min read

Video Editor: Puneet Bhatia

Is plasma donation safe? Can plasma therapy cure COVID-19 patients? Why are some State governments promoting plasma donation? What is the procedure to donate plasma?

To get answers to all such questions, The Quint visits Delhi’s plasma bank at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences Hospital (ILBS).

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Who Cannot Donate Plasma?

  • Anyone weighing under 50Kgs
  • Women who have been pregnant
  • Diabetes & High BP patients
  • Cancer survivors
  • Chronic Lung & Kidney disease patients
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‘Plasma Therapy Is Low Risk’: Dr Bajpai

Additional Professor - Transfusion Medicine, Dr Meenu Bajpai, ILBS Hospital guides us through the process of plasma donation.

What is the success rate of plasma therapy?

That is the toughest question. Actually, we have seen some benefits of plasma therapy but it is not unequivocal. You cannot say it is a magic drug or something, but it does give some benefit and that’s why it is being used so widely. If a drug gives even some level of benefit, like Remdesivir, it is being promoted. It’s not like if you give that medicine COVID-19 will go away and the patient will survive. But it improves the chances.

Is plasma therapy still at a clinical trial stage?

It was at a clinical trial stage but now it is at the stage of ‘off label’ use. This means that its efficacy has not been proven, but it can be given on a case to case basis.

Has any research or study been done on plasma therapy?

There are studies on plasma. We have also done one trial. I can read out some of the results to you. We found improvements in the patients’ respiratory rate, in the oxygen saturation levels, and we saw a reduction in organ failure rates. Also in some other key parameters. This trial was conducted on 29 patients at Delhi’s LNJP Hospital.

Is there any risk in giving plasma to COVID-19 patients?

Even if a patient does not get any benefit out of plasma therapy, there is very little chance of any adverse effect. Reactions are very few.

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‘A Big Opportunity To Save Lives’: Donor

Around 50% of the plasma donors at ILBS Hospital's plasma bank are coming voluntarily, while the rest are coming to provide plasma in exchange for units taken for the treatment of a relative or a friend.

We met Ranjana at the plasm bank. She had severe COVID-19 symptoms some time back, but is fully recovered now. She visited ILBS Hospital to make a voluntary plasma donation.

“I was having serious problems, like I was having breathing problems and fever was very high at 104 degrees. I had a constant feeling that there was something in my throat. I was not scared but the feeling was very bad. I would not want someone else to experience that.”
Ranjana, plasma donor
“One of my relatives needs plasma. Secondly, it is a good cause and I want to motivate others to donate plasma. It’s a very smooth process, I am not feeling weak. There is nothing to fear. By donating plasma one can save someone’s life. This is a big opportunity, which one might not get again.”
Ashish Sharma, plasma donor
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‘Plasma Donation is Safe for the Donor’: Dr Bajpai

Dr Bajpai points out that every COVID-19 patient may not get benefit from plasma therapy.

“Moderately sick patients only. But the doctor has to decide. The guidelines are there. Drug Controller General of India (DGCI) and Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) both have given almost identical guidelines and all doctors who make a request for plasma are told to give an undertaking stating that they have read these guidelines and are asking for plasma as per the guidelines.”
Dr Meenu Bajpai, Addl Professor, Transfusion Medicine, ILBS Hospital

ILBS Hospital is hoping to get more plasma donors in coming days.

“I would say it is very safe. It is safe for the donor, and it is safe for the patient. You should come forward because there is no definite therapy at the moment. So if by donating plasma, we can do our small bit, we should do it.”
Dr Meenu Bajpai, Addl Professor, Transfusion Medicine, ILBS hospital

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