Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS), which runs a plasma bank, is planning to expand the eligibility criteria for donation. Dr S K Sarin, its director, told TOI that he planned to allow anyone who had recovered from Covid-19 in the past three to six months to donate convalescent plasma.
“Current guidelines allow only people who have recovered in the last three months to donate,” Dr Sarin said. But “data has emerged that a proportion of patients after Covid-19 continues to have high levels of protective antibodies. Therefore, people who got infected in the last three to six months can come and donate, and if their antibody levels are high, their plasma can be utilised,” he added.
ILBS is issuing about 40 to 50 units of plasma daily but the doctors say demand is higher. “Plasma is not the primary therapy for Covid-19 patients. It should be used in conjunction with standard protocol drugs for treating the infection. Also, not everyone is a candidate for the therapy. A person who is already on ventilator or has multiorgan failure will not benefit from it,” Dr Sarin said.
Plasma therapy involves taking antibodies from the blood of a person who has recovered from Covid-19 and transfusing it into a novel coronavirus-infected patient to help kick-start his immune system. There have been multiple studies to assess its efficacy in reducing morbidity and mortality risk in Covid-19 patients, but the jury is still out.
Plasma therapy is safe and has shown to improve recovery in select patients, said Dr Meenu Bajpai, professor of transfusion medicine and in-charge of Delhi Plasma Bank at ILBS. “It can be given to patients with early in the disease course, meaning prior to respiratory failure requiring mechanical ventilator,” she said.
The latest guidelines issued by US FDA also states that the use of Covid-19 convalescent plasma with high titer antibody may be effective in treating hospitalised patients when administered early or when administered to patients with impaired humoral immunity.
Dr Arun Gupta, president of Delhi Medical Council, said many hospitals were irrationally prescribing the therapy to all patients, often under pressure from the families or due to lack of understanding of the appropriate use. “Due to this, those who genuinely need it aren’t getting it,” he said.