Plasma therapy as COVID-19 treatment not proven, can be life-threatening: Centre

ICMR is studying the efficacy of this therapy, says health ministry

HEALTH-CORONAVIRUS/USA Convalescent plasma from a recovered coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patient is seen at the Central Seattle Donor Center of Bloodworks Northwest during the outbreak in Seattle, Washington, U.S. April 17, 2020. The plasma from recovered patients will be used in an experimental treatment study for current coronavirus patients. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

The Union government on Tuesday informed that the plasma therapy for the treatment of COVID-19 is still in the experimental stage and warned that there can be life-threatening complications if this mode of treatment is not used as per the guidelines.

"There is no treatment in the world for COVID-19. Plasma therapy is not proven. It is still in the experimental stage and there is no evidence to use this as treatment. Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is studying the efficacy of this therapy," said Lav Agarwal, Joint Secretary, Union Health and Family Welfare Ministry.

He said until the ICMR concludes its study and a robust scientific proof is available, plasma therapy should be used only for research or trial purposes.

“There can even be life-threatening complications if plasma therapy is not used as per guidelines. Until and unless this is approved as a therapy for COVID-19, it is unjustified to spread any claim about the effectiveness of this therapy," Agarwal said.

The Centre’s advisory came two days after a Delhi hospital claimed that for the first time in India a COVID-19 patient admitted there was fully recovered after being administered the convalescent plasma therapy. The Max hospital said the 49-year-old patient was discharged on Sunday after his test results turned negative.

Convalescent Plasma Therapy is an experimental procedure for COVID-19 patients. In this treatment plasma, a blood component, from a cured COVID-19 patient is transfused to a critically ill coronavirus patient.

The blood of a person who has recovered from COVID-19 develops antibodies to battle against the virus. This therapy uses antibodies from the blood of a cured coronavirus patient to treat another critical patient.

The idea behind this therapy is that immunity can be transferred from a healthy person to a sick patient using convalescent plasma. Once the blood plasma of the recovered patient is infused with that of the second patient, the antibodies start fighting against coronavirus in the second person's body. The process of donating plasma is similar to that of donating blood and takes about an hour.

Several hospitals in the country have already begun this therapy to treat the coronavirus patients.

After reports emerged about the efficacy of this therapy, several people who recovered from the disease have come forward to donate their plasma for the treatment of COVID-19. On Monday, Bollywood singer Kanika Kapoor, who recently recovered from the infection, approached the King George's Medical University (KGMU), offering to donate her plasma.

Meanwhile, Britain, one of the worst-hit countries, had on Monday approved a national clinical trial to assess the plasma therapy.