Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal Friday said that plasma treatment was conducted on four coronavirus patients admitted at Lok Nayak Hospital in the national capital and that the trial has seen ‘encouraging results’ so far.
“We have done this as a limited trial on those serious patients admitted at Lok Nayak Hospital… The results are encouraging so far,” the chief minister said while briefing the media.
He also appealed to those who have recovered from COVID-19 to come forward and donate plasma to save other people’s lives. “We will be making calls to you, requesting you to come forward and help save other lives. We will also make arrangements for you to travel to and from the hospital,” he added.
Talking about plasma therapy, Dr SK Sarin, who heads Delhi government’s taskforce on COVID-19, said that the first time the therapy was used was in 1901 for diphtheria.
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“In our initial planning, we had thought about plasma therapy only for those with chronic respiratory diseases. Then we decided to use this to neutralise the virus because we don’t have any medicine for this so far. There are three phases in this disease. The first is the virus phase, during which the virus enters the body and starts reaching and affecting different parts. The second is the pulmonary phase, during which there are injuries in the lung, which cause breathing difficulties. In the third phase, cytokine is released in the body. If the patient comes in the third stage, it is the stage of organ failure. If the patient comes in the second stage, where the lungs are affected but other organs are working, plasma therapy can work. In the first stage, you can’t catch it,” he said.
Doctors at Lok Nayak Hospital have tested three more patients who can be administered the therapy. “Plasma is ready for them. The benefit of this therapy is that the patient can be prevented from entering the stage of cytokine storm and organ failure. The therapy for the first batch of patients will be completed in 10-15 days and we hope we can take a lead and show that this is working,” he said.
However, the lack of plasma donors is proving to be a problem. Only those who recovered at least three weeks ago can be donors. While 808 patients have recovered in Delhi so far, most of them were discharged only in the last seven days week.
“There are some problems as well. We need antibodies from those who have recovered. They need to show their patriotism. We had a very young patient came in a few days ago late night and he kept looking for plasma all day. He passed away at 4 am and we got plasma at 7 am. It was very depressing. This is not even blood donation… The blood will be transferred back to your body after antibody plasma is extracted. You can even do this again after 10 days… It is our responsibility to ensure no harm is done to the donor,” Dr. Sarin said.
There are close to 24 patients who could benefit from the therapy, he said. Till Thursday, there were 23 COVID-19 patients in the ICU and eight on ventilators.
“If donations are made in the next two days, it will go a long way in helping these patients. Our teams will do their best to try and treat them. Also, plasma therapy is not very expensive… Of the four we have given the therapy to so far, two are responding well. They are sitting up and having breakfast. These people were almost on the stage of being put on the ventilator. They might be discharged in a week. In the other two, there has been no negative reaction,” he said.
Elaborating on the condition of the four, Kejriwal said that two were given the therapy on Tuesday.
“It has been three days, they were in the ICU and they might be taken to the ward today. In technical terms, the respiratory rate of the first patient was 30 as against a normal of 15. Oxygen saturation level was 85% against a normal of 95%. After the therapy, the respiratory rate became 20 and oxygen saturation level went up to 98%. Improvement has been seen in all four patients. The two who were given the therapy yesterday are also showing good results in a short timeframe,” Kejriwal said.
Earlier, Max hospital Saket had also used the therapy on two patients. While one died, the other has shown rapid improvement.
The government will now seek permission to use the therapy across Delhi.
“We will do more trials in the next 2-3 days and will then apply to use the therapy in the whole state… I have to repeat that these are initial results. They are encouraging, a ray of hope…the donor plays an important role who donates plasma. A lot of you would have donated platelets for dengue patients, where the blood is returned to the body. This is similar. I request those who have been cured to come forward and donate the plasma. If you don’t donate, patients might die… We will make calls to everyone… There can be no harm, it is a simple protest. Please come forward,” Kejriwal added.
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