Convalescent Plasma

What is Convalescent Plasma? – People who have recovered from COVID-19 have antibodies to the disease in their blood. Doctors call this convalescent plasma. Researchers hope that convalescent plasma can be given to people with severe COVID-19 to boost their ability to fight the virus. Everyone who has suffered from a disease possibly carries what are called neutralising antibodies that when extracted via plasma and transfused on to others with the infection can help their immune system fight it off. Whether it works or not depends on whether the disease produced a lot of antibodies in people or not.

Challenges to the use of Convalescent Plasma

  • The research around the therapy is very thin; yet to be validated for efficacy and safety; The most important principle in medical ethics is “do no harm”. The transfusion of convalescent plasma is also not without risks, which range from mild reactions like fever, itching, to life-threatening allergic reactions and lung injury. To recommend a therapy without studying it thoroughly with robust scientific methods may cause more harm than good.
  • Convalescent plasma therapy requires intensive resources, healthy COVID-19 survivors to donate (the plasma), a blood bank with proper machinery and trained personnel to remove plasma, equipment to store it and testing facilities to make sure it has an adequate amount of antibodies.
  • Giving whole plasma to an individual may even overload the system since it might be a large volume. There are no commercially available assays in the market that could measure the antibody level in the plasma. Experts would have to figure out the standard minimum dose of antibodies that will kickstart the immune response in the recipient against COVID-19 infection.
  • Researchers would need enough donors who have recovered fully and can be tested for other pathogens as well. People should be willing to donate plasma, and good tests should emerge to estimate how many antibodies they have.
  • Finding plasma for rare blood groups would be a challenge. 
  • There is a need to ensure that plasma donors are not exploited under any circumstances.

Practice Question – Discuss the challenges to the use of ‘Convalescent Plasma’ as a cure for COVID 19. – 250 words.