The BMC on Thursday organised a first-of-its-kind screening camp for plasma donation in Dharavi, one of the hotspots of Covid-19 infection in the state.
The camp was set up at Kamraj School to encourage those who had contracted the infection and have since recovered, to voluntarily donate their blood for screening. Blood samples of 47 patients who have recovered were collected on Thursday.
Besides collecting samples, the doctors at the camp noted down the detailed medical history of the prospective donors and physically examined them. The samples will be screened for infectious diseases like HIV and Hepatitis and those testing negative will be asked to donate plasma.
Haemoglobin count, weight and comorbidities are also checked before patients are allowed to donate plasma. People with comorbidities such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer are excluded.
BMC officials said that the screening results will be out in two days. The camp will, meanwhile, continue for a few days with the BMC expecting 350 more volunteers to turn up.
Officials said that actual donation of plasma will take place around June 27 at a BMC-run hospital. Convalescent Plasma therapy has shown promise in treatment of critical Covid-19 patients but remains a difficult prospect due to dearth in donors.
Maharashtra has 1.94 lakh recovered Covid-19 patients, while Mumbai has 1.05 lakh. Under Project Platina, inaugurated by Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray as part of country’s largest clinical trial, only 190 recovered patients have so far donated their plasma until Thursday in government hospitals across the state, including in Mumbai and Nagpur.
The therapy involves injecting plasma from recovered patients into infected patients to improve antibody response in latter against the virus. The plasmapheresis process takes 30 minutes. The patient’s blood goes into a machine, which separates plasma and redirects remaining blood back into the donor’s body. Each donor can donate 400 ml to 500 ml of plasma, which can help two patients.
Dharavi, the 2,400-sq m slum sprawl, which had emerged as a hotspot by mid-April, has witnessed a steady decline in the number of new cases in June. On Thursday, six new cases were recorded – the second single digit rise in two days.
Of the 2,513 cases in Dharavi, 2,121 have recovered. With only 142 active cases, the area provides a huge pool of eligible plasma donors.
“We have contacted over 1,000 patients from Dharavi who have recovered to see if they are willing to donate plasma. Nearly 400 have agreed to visit the camp and donate plasma,” said Kiran Dighavkar, Assistant Municipal Commissioner of administrative G North ward, which includes Mahim, Dharavi and Dadar.
Doctors said they plan to take plasma from patients who had moderate to severe symptoms as in such cases, the antibody count is high.
BMC data shows that most of the recovered patients in Dharavi are below 45 years of age. Most are also employed in providing essential services, including around 50 police personnel.
Blood banks in the city said recovered patients refuse to donate because they are scared of returning to the hospital. Earlier this month, Uddhav had made a public appeal, calling for plasma donation. Civic hospitals have been asked to start counselling patients during their treatment. In Mumbai, there are 14 licensed plasma banks.
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