Second wave: Plasma therapy in high demand again due to surge in cases

Plasma banks in Bengaluru say they are getting around 50 requests every day since last three weeks ; affected families scouting for donors

Even as the debate over the effectiveness of plasma therapy continues, the demand for the therapy is rising with the rapid surge in cases during the second wave in Karnataka.

Several hospitals in the city are prescribing plasma therapy and affected families are literally scouting for plasma donors. Plasma banks in the city said they are getting around 50 requests for plasma every day since the last three weeks.

Most private hospital blood banks authorised to take up plasma therapy in the city said there are not enough eligible donors. “With waning immunity among those who have recovered from COVID-19 and the requirement that donors should have high antibody titres apart from other prescribed eligibility criteria, there are not enough fresh donors. There is an urgent need to mobilise fresh plasma donors,” said U.S. Vishal Rao, who heads the State-supported HCG plasma bank.

Dr. Rao, who recently met Chief Minister B.S. Yediyurappa and apprised him about the need to mobilise plasma donors, said he has also written to BBMP Chief Commissioner Gaurav Gupta in this regard. “I have told the BBMP that if required, a representative from our bank will be made available to work with individuals in the COVID-19 War Room to call potential donors and mobilise them to come forward to donate,” he told The Hindu on Thursday.

“I appeal to all those who have recovered from COVID-19 (one month post infection and within three months of infection) to come forward and donate plasma. The therapy is found to be highly beneficial if given within three days after the patient has been put on oxygen. Every individual who has recovered from COVID-19 has the potential to save at least two lives,” he said.

Plasma was given to 1,200 donors through the HCG Plasma Bank last year and the therapy was successful in over 60% of the beneficiaries, he said.

Volunteers from Mercy Mission, a Bengaluru-based NGO, that runs a helpline to meet plasma, oxygen, ambulance and burial assistance needs of COVID-19 patients, said the demand for plasma has shot up in the last three weeks.

“We are getting at least six requests every day and it is difficult to mobilise donors. According to doctors and our experience, the therapy is beneficial if given at an early stage. We have seen many patients recover. Any interested donor can contact Mercy Mission’s helpline on 8660856709. Samples for antibody tests will be collected round the clock in most blood banks. There is also an option for home sample collection,” said Touseef Masood, a volunteer.

Abdul Rahaman Shariff, managing trustee of Jeevaraksha Blood Bank, said they have been able to source only ten donors during the last one month and none of them had come voluntarily. “All of them were brought either by patient attenders or came after we called and requested them to donate. We are getting at least 50 requests every day,” he said.

Dr. Rao said the American College of Haematology’s updated statement and many other global bodies including the World Health Organisation (WHO) have again recommended convalescent plasma. “Several papers published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) have emphasised on the use of plasma as an important weapon in the armamentarium for the second wave. This suggests that Convalescent Plasma banks across India need to be geared up with fresh plasma stocks for the second wave,” he added.


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