The idea of treating the patients of COVID-19 by the plasma, derived from the blood of those who have recovered from the virus infection, has gone from an idea to a worldwide program, self-organized by medical researchers.
It was only four days before on March 24, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began allowing researchers to request emergency authorization to test whether the plasma will help.
What is Plasma: Plasma is the almost clear liquid that remains after red and white blood cells and platelets are removed from the blood. It contains antibodies that can fight diseases.
Hospitals round the world has already begun recruiting plasma donors, and Methodist Hospital in Houston gave the first plasma transfusions to a COVID-19 patient, the following day.
It is considered as a gamble of time, energy and money, to use plasma therapy in order to fight against COVID-19.
Convalescent plasma therapy has a mixed history of success. It’s time-consuming, expensive and difficult to deploy on a large scale. Even so, researchers are all in favor of it.
The donor and the patient must be from compatible blood types, and the plasma is tested for multiple diseases, including COVID-19, HIV and hepatitis, to ensure it can’t transfer them.
Though convalescent plasma (from the blood of people “convalescing,” or recovered, from a disease) has been used successfully in outbreaks of other diseases, such as polio, measles and mumps, it’s by no means a slam-dunk.
The plasma showed promising results in the small Chinese study posted as a preprint March 27. Another preprint, released March 16, about plasma treatment in 10 severely ill patients in Wuhan, China, found similar results.
Preprints are papers posted to online open-access sites before they have gone through the rigorous scientific peer review process, so information can be shared rapidly. During the COVID-19 crisis, they have been crucial in quickly disseminating essential data.
In both studies, almost all the patients also received antiviral and other treatments, making it difficult to know in a group of only 15 patients what specifically helped.
For now, plasma therapy is one of the few options for doctors when critically ill patients “don’t have much chances of surviving”.