Plasma is the main part of the blood, making up 55% of the total blood volume. The other parts; red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, take up the remaining 45%. The blood plasma on its own is pale yellow and is made up of 90% water. Therefore, it is the liquid component of the blood that holds and carries all the other blood cells and proteins throughout the body.
It contains salts, enzymes, and antibodies and carries out special functions in the body like blood clotting, growing hormones, maintaining blood pressure, fighting diseases, and others.In essence, plasma plays a critical part in the treatment of many severe health problems. The antibodies and proteins from source plasma can be used to develop therapies and treatments to cure rare infections.
Plasma can also be donated from a recovered patient of a particular disease to combat the disease in other patients. This is popularly called ‘Plasma Treatment or Therapy’. With the growth in the cases of the novel coronavirus; Covid 19, and as we wait for a vaccine to be developed that would control the virus, medical experts have recommended the use of plasma therapy to fight the infection.
What is Plasma Treatment?
Plasma Treatment, medically known as ‘Convalescent Plasma Therapy’, is a medical process that uses blood from a patient that has recovered from infection and creating antibodies from the recovered plasma to help other infected patients get better.
How It Works
Convalescent plasma therapy uses antibodies–a type of protein–contained in plasma. These antibodies are from patients who have completely recovered from the infection.
The blood plasma had been earlier infected by the disease and successfully fought it off. Due to this encounter, the antibodies of the plasma have been fully developed and is strong enough to fight and overpower the infection easily when it comes in contact with it again. The steps are as follows:
- Blood is taken from the recovered patient of the infection.
- The blood will be screened for prevalent infections such as Hepatitis B&C, HIV, etc.
- If safe, the blood cells are then separated; all white and red blood cells and platelets are removed, leaving behind the plasma containing antibodies against the infectious disease.
- The plasma is then injected into infected patients to help them combat the disease, aiding quicker recovery.
Convalescent plasma therapy can be given to patients suffering from COVID 19 to help them lessen the severity and shorten the length of the infection.
Risks of Plasma Treatment
Though convalescent plasma therapy is done to treat patients of infections and has been successful in several cases in times past, and even in several COVID 19 patients recently, there are still possible risks you need to be made aware of. However, researchers state that these risks have a low chance of occurring. They include:
- Negative body reactions; allergic reactions, developing infections.
- Could lead to lung damage and breathing difficulties.
- Contracting prevalent infections from a recovered person such as Hepatitis, HIV, etc. However, the chance is very slim because the recovered patient’s health is screened for any infection, and then, donated blood is always tested and made certain to be free of infections.
Convalescent plasma treatment is recommended by your doctor for your consideration. You can ask your doctors questions about the procedure. On your approval, your doctor will order a plasma suitable for your blood type.
Your health condition will be assessed and you will be prepped for the process. An intravenous (IV) line will be connected with a sterile needle inserted into your vein in one of your arms.
The separated recovered plasma from the recovered patient contained in a drip bag will be attached to the IV line and controlled to supply you the plasma in drips. This process takes 1 to 2 hours to be completed.
The IV drip will be taken out of you and spot cleaned out and covered with cotton wool for a few minutes to stop bleeding. You will be closely monitored by your doctor and your response to the treatment recorded. Depending on your overall health, you may be required to stay hospitalized or go home and make frequent visits to the hospital for continuous assessment till you do not need to do so any longer.
Effective Cure of Covid-19?
Convalescent plasma therapy has been used in time past to treat serious and widespread epidemics. Some of such cases include:
- Spanish flu in 1918
- H1N1 infection in 2009
- Ebola virus in 2014
- Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS)–a type of coronavirus–in 2015, among others.
As a result, researchers have seen the therapy as an effective means of curing the novel virus, COVID-19. Data from clinical trials have suggested that convalescent plasma treatment may lessen the severity of COVID-19 and even shortens its duration.
In India, positive results have shown up, especially in cities like Mumbai and Delhi where the cases of COVID-19 are very high. The use of plasma treatment has been seen to improve the recovering potential of an infected patient. That is, an infected person has a quicker recovery rate when he has gotten a convalescent plasma.
Yet, the full efficacy and effectiveness have not been determined and more research is needed to conclude.