With scientists and researchers working on finding a cure to the COVID-19 pandemic, a new glare of light has shined upon us in the form of Convalescent Plasma Therapy. A study conducted in China proved how the introduction of antibodies through blood transfusion might be a safe and therapeutic treatment option for COVID-19 patients all over the world. Read ahead to know all that you need about Plasma Therapy, and its use in treating Coronavirus.
What is Plasma Therapy?
Convalescent Plasma Therapy, popularly known as CP Therapy, involves the use of donated blood plasma from those patients who have recovered from a particular infection. In case the CP donor has recently recovered from the infection, their plasma is bound to contain higher levels of neutralising antibodies for the pathogens that they were previously exposed to. Thus, when the CP is transfused to another person, an instant immune response is generated. CP Therapy is particularly useful in case a person is immunodeficient, and cannot generate an immune response on his/her own
Convalescent Plasma Therapy for COVID-19
CP Therapy is one investigational treatment being considered for the treatment of COVID-19. This is mainly because the therapy has proved to be effective in the treatment of previous respiratory diseases, like H1N1 Influenza Virus Pandemic (2009-10), SARS-CoV-1 Epidemic (2003) and MERS-CoV Epidemic (2012).
The treatment of COVID-19 using CP Therapy involves the use of convalescent plasma collected from those patients who have recovered from COVID-19. It is expected that the convalescent plasma present in the blood of these recovered patients may contain antibodies to fight SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus which causes COVID-19.
CP Therapy is a classic adaptive immunotherapy, which has helped in the treatment of several infectious diseases in the past. However, it has also proved to be ineffective in certain viral diseases like Ebola.
While finding the perfect vaccine to treat the pandemic has become the primary motive of researchers, scientists and doctors all over the world, one thing has to be kept in mind while experimenting and making discoveries- it must be thoroughly studied whether the newly developed vaccine causes immune system malfunctions which has been previously caused in the case of other viruses. It was observed in the case of dengue and SARS that some animals or people who had received the vaccine and were later exposed to the disease faced severe repercussions as compared to those who were yet to receive the vaccine. This is one risk that cannot be taken in the case of the COVID-19 Pandemic.
This immune enhancement may lead to conditions like Antibody-dependent Enhancement (ADE), in which the antibodies are leveraged by the virus to aid the infection, or Cell-Enhancement, in which immunopathology causes allergic inflammation. Studies are still underway to comprehend whether these enhancement processes can possibly overlap upon coming into contact with COVID-19, and aid it in any manner. This will only do more harm than good, as the severity of the infection will only intensify.
Scientists have estimated that Convalescent Plasma Therapy can be effective in the treatment of those with the most severe and moderate symptoms of the disease. In the case of those who show moderate symptoms, the therapy is expected to prevent their condition from growing worse.
So far, one donation of plasma has been found to produce two doses of blood needed for transfusion. One person only needs one dose of plasma transfusion in order for the therapy to work, and the infection to be defeated.
Pilot Study to Understand the Effectiveness of Convalescent Plasma Therapy
The use of CP Therapy to treat COVID-19 can only be studied through the conduction of studies. Such studies have been conducted in China and South Korea, where its effectiveness has been proved. These studies have given researchers a background to prove that the introduction of antibodies through blood transfusion, the main idea behind Plasma Therapy, might act as a therapeutic option in curing COVID-19.
Researchers in China conducted the Convalescent Plasma Therapy on 10 adult patients with severe COVID-19. These patients, aged between 34 and 78 years, were given a single dose of 200 ml Convalescent Plasma with high levels of anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibodies. The results showed that the patients’ levels of neutralizing antibodies had either significantly improved or remained high post-transfusion. Three days after the infusion, clinical symptoms like coughing, fever, shortness of breath and chest pain showed much improvement. The patients also had reduced inflammation, improved liver functioning and increased lymphocyte count after the CP transfusion was done.
Within a week after the transfusion, the team of researchers observed varying degrees of reabsorption of lung lesions on chest CT Scans of the patients. No serious adverse reactions were found as a result of the CP transfusion.
These results motivated more researchers and scientists to consider CP Therapy as a deserving candidate in their race to find a cure to COVID-19.
However, one limitation exists in the use of CP Therapy for treating COVID-19. CP Therapy, also known as Passive Antibody Therapy, leads to the provision of antibodies to the affected individual in the short-run i.e. for immediate need. This means that these antibodies are only at work for a short period of time, and might not remain alive until the body develops its own defence against the virus. While these antibodies last in the body of the donor for a longer duration, there is conclusive evidence to show that the recipient is not susceptible to getting the disease again.
In these uncertain times, when many of us are losing hope, Plasma Therapy has emerged as an option that can defeat the COVID-19 Pandemic for us. This unique therapy, which involves the introduction of antibodies through blood transfusion, proves that Convalescent Plasma Therapy acts as an armour to shield us from the ill-effects of coronavirus. Keeping our fingers crossed, lets hope that this therapy can do wonders for the infected ones!