With convalescent plasma therapy trials proving to be useful in treating COVID-19 patients, doctors from the Post-Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER) will build a bank of blood plasma donations to prepare for a potential peak in cases.
“We don’t know how long this pandemic will last, so we really want more and more recovered COVID-19 patients to come and donate plasma to us. This can prove to be life-saving act for some patients,” says Dr R R Sharma, head of the Department of Transfusion Medicine at PGIMER.
Out of the 367 patients who have recovered from COVID-19 in Chandigarh, only six have donated their blood plasma to the hospital until now. Since patients can donate their blood plasma only 28 days after their date of recovery, 214 of these 367 patients who were deemed as recovered by the UT Administration prior to June 2 are technically eligible for donating plasma to the hospital.
“Furthermore, these patients need to have at least some symptoms of the disease, because chances are that some of these patients did not develop the antibodies needed to conduct a successful plasma transfusion,” Dr Sharma says.
Even patients who have already donated blood plasma can do so again. “Since only the plasma is taken from the blood, it is safe for them to come and donate again and it would be very useful to us,” says Dr Sharma.
From next week onwards, even asymptomatic patients can attempt to donate blood, since the hospital is procuring antibody tests, which can be used to test the presence of antibodies in recovered patients’ blood, before they are asked to donate their blood plasma.
“We should receive antibody test kits hopefully by next week,” Dr Sharma says.
The multi-centre trial for convalescent plasma therapy is due to end by July 15. Though the official results of the trial are yet to be collated and disclosed, most states with a high burden of COVID-19 patients have reported plasma therapy to be a successful intervention in treating moderate, sometimes even severely ill patients of COVID-19.
Plasma therapy has hence been used outside of the scope of the trial in emergency situations, and a shortage of donated plasma from recovered COVID patients has been reported.
At PGIMER, three patients have been discharged after successfully undergoing plasma therapy trial, including two patients from Chandigarh. One such patient is an 80-year-old woman from Bapu Dham Colony who spent almost two weeks admitted to the dedicated ICU for COVID patients at PGIMER.
“She has been doing well and has no complaints of symptoms. Of course she is an 80-year-old woman so she is still weak but at one point we were worried that the disease might take her life and that didn’t happen so we are grateful to whatever treatment and care she received,” says the woman’s son, who is also a resident of Bapu Dham Colony.
Hospital staff has been calling up recovered patients to donate plasma but very few have shown enthusiasm for the task. Since some of the plasma has already been used for the trial, the blood bank is depleted in plasma for at least three blood types as of now.
If a recovered patient wished to donate, they can contact the transfusion department on the landline number 0172-2756481, 2755485. Patients can also contact Dr Suchet Sachdev from Transfusion Medicine after 5 pm on 7087009487.
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