First COVID-19 patient who underwent plasma therapy in Karnataka dies

Man, who died of cardiac arrest, was suffering from pneumonia, respiratory distress

plasma rep Representational image of blood plasma | Australian Red Cross Lifeblood

The first coronavirus patient in Karnataka to undergo convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) at the Victoria hospital in Bengaluru has died following cardiac arrest on Thursday.

The deceased (Patient no.796) was a 60-year-old man from Anantpur in Andhra Pradesh, who was admitted to the designated hospital in Bengaluru on May 10 with influenza-like illness (ILI).

"The patient was given plasma therapy. But he was suffering from pneumonia, respiratory distress with hypotension and was a known case of diabetes mellitus. He died of cardiac arrest," said COVID-19 spokesperson and Education Minister S. Suresh Kumar.

"The patient was in his last stage and on the ventilator. The therapy was one last effort to save him. This outcome should not be a comment on the efficacy of the treatment," said Suresh Kumar.

The Bengaluru-based HCG hospital, in partnership with the Bangalore Medical College and Research Institute (BMCRI), was granted permission on April 20 by the Directorate General of Health Services, Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (Biological Division) to initiate phase I clinical trials to use plasma therapy for severe COVID-19 infected patients. However, the Union health ministry sounded a note of caution, saying CPT was still unproven and can be used only as a clinical trial and not as standard treatment.

HCG is one of the few institutes in India to have got the approval after the Indian Council of Medical Research called upon the medical research institutes interested in a randomised, controlled study to assess the safety and efficacy of plasma therapy for COVID-19.

HCG had submitted a 239-page proposal for a comprehensive plan to treat COVID-19 using convalescent plasma therapy, which was reviewed by expert committees prior to the approval. The therapy uses the plasma (a blood component) extracted out of the blood of a recovered coronavirus patient to treat another critical patient. As per the guidelines, the HCG collected plasma from at least two donors in April. However, the team had to wait for the first patient who fulfils the criteria to undergo plasma therapy.

While plasma therapy has been previously used for treatment of MERS, SARS and Ebola virus, the efficacy and safety of CPT will be clear only after the clinical trials are carried out on large number of severe and critical patients who qualify for the therapy.