Is Plasma Therapy a Safe Method to Treat COVID-19?

Ethically speaking, patients should not be misled about the process, and they should not be pressured into getting this therapy done and neither should previous patients feel pressurised into donating. 

Disclaimer: I am not a medical expert and do not claim to be so. All information I have used is not a personal opinion of mine. Please do your own research on the topic too. The purpose of the article is to create awareness.

During the times of the COVID-19 pandemic, many experimental methods are being tested by the immunologists to figure out safe ways of curing coronavirus – one of such methods is plasma therapy. Before, it was used in the Ebola outbreak of 2014 in Africa, SARS and MERS as a last resort method of curing the patients.

Plasma Therapy was recently approved by the FDA in US for extremely critical patients of COVID-19 – before this, they had also approved the use of chloroquine for such patients. It was also used a method to cure critically ill patients in China.

However, studies such as Treatment of 5 Critically Ill Patients With COVID-19 With Convalescent Plasma in JAMA suggest that this is not proper cure, and requires to be tested in random clinical trials. Not only is it not a robust cure, but it can also lead to serious side effects, not limited to severe allergic reactions, acute lung injury, and circulatory overload in patients with cardiorespiratory disorders.

Process for Plasma Therapy

The process involves taking approximately 400 ml of plasma using a procedure called “apharesis”. In this, the donor’s blood is passed through a machine to extract plasma and the blood cells are returned to the donor. Plasma therapy may require the insertion of a wide catheter, called a double lumen line, and can take up to two hours.

Side effects may include allergic reactions, fatigue, dizziness and nausea, and such. While these side effects are usually mild and stop once the procedure ends, it is imperative that the donors are informed about them.

Is Plasma Therapy Safe in Pakistan?

Field Hospital at Expo Centre to be made operational from today ...
Field Hospital being Prepared for COVID-19 in Expo Centre

The Health Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has also allowed the use of plasma therapy for the treatment of fresh cases. However, Pakistan only has selected areas where the technology to conduct this experimental cure for COVID-19.

The Physician-Researchers would need to get a scientific approval from DRAP, and an ethical approval from bodies like the National Bioethics Committee in Pakistan. Patients and family members would need to understand the actual side-effects and the dangers of plasma therapy so that they can decide if this is the safest route for them to cure themselves of COVID-19. Ethically speaking, they should not be misled about the process, and they should not be pressured into getting this therapy done. Previous patients of COVID-19 should not feel pressurised either by the media to donate plasma.

The media will have to be careful when spreading the correct information about plasma therapy. While people need to know about its pros and cons, they also need to know the correct context of the researches conducted. It is imperative because previously, the news about chloroquine led to shortage in the supply of the malaria medicine and both fatal and non-fatal toxicity reports in the patients.


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