Health > Benefits of Plasma Therapy in COVID-19 and Side Effects
27th May 2021

Benefits of Plasma Therapy in COVID-19 and Side Effects

Plasma therapy in COVID-19 with its benefits and side effects has been a hot topic of discussion ever since the pandemic began in 2020. In early 2020, when there was no vaccine for the coronavirus and medical professionals were searching for a cure, the efficacy of plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients proved to be very helpful. Today, plasma therapy has become quite common in treating COVID-19, but a lot of people are still unaware of what the treatment entails. To sort out any misconceptions or confusion, here is more on the use of plasma therapy in COVID-19 with its benefits and side effects:

What You Need to Know about Antibodies and Plasma Therapy

Antibodies, also known as immunoglobulin (Ig), are proteins that are manufactured by one’s immune system in order to fight viruses and bacteria. When someone gets an infection, their immune system detects the same and begins making antibodies against the germs. The role of plasma therapy in COVID-19 is all about these antibodies. Even after a person recovers, these antibodies and other immune factors provide the person protection against whatever caused the infection. Plasma therapy in COVID-19 treatment involves taking antibody-containing plasma from a person who has recovered from COVID-19 and introducing it in a patient’s body to help them fight the disease.

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The Role of Plasma Therapy in COVID-19 Treatment

While plasma therapy is also based on antibodies, it works differently than a vaccine. When a vaccine is administered, a person’s immune system starts producing antibodies for the microbe that the person is being protected against. It may be said that these antibodies have memory as they are able to recognise the microbe if the person is exposed to it in the future, and the body is able to activate the antigens to attack the pathogen. This is also known as “active immunity”.

The benefits of plasma therapy in COVID-19 treatment on the other hand are offering the patient “passive immunity”. When a patient is injected with the antibody-containing plasma of a recovered donor, the antibodies in their plasma help the patient fight the virus while their own immune system begins making the required antibodies.

The Efficacy of Plasma Therapy in COVID-19

At the time when there were very few treatment options for COVID-19 patients and no approved medication for hospitalised patients, the use of plasma therapy in COVID-19 with its benefits and side effects was considered. While preliminary studies showed the therapy to be safe, with minimal adverse side effects, research is still ongoing to determine the success rate of plasma therapy in COVID-19. However, from the studies that have been conducted so far, the effectiveness of plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients is higher when it is administered early in the course of the disease for patients who are at risk of it progressing to a more severe stage, where they may even require a ventilator.

It has been observed that the success rate of plasma therapy in COVID-19 treatment falls considerably after a patient has been intubated and put on ventilation. Studies have also shown that it i9s important to use plasma with a high effective concentration or titer. Plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients, performed with high titer plasma helps in neutralising and attacking the virus, also improving chances of recovery.

Several studies about using plasma therapy in COVID-19 with its benefits and side effects are underway.

Side Effects of Plasma Therapy in COVID-19

There are very low chances of suffering from severe side effects when plasma therapy is used to treat COVID-19. Side effects of plasma therapy may include:

•    mild fever
•    allergic reaction
•    reaction to the transfusion
•    bronchospasm
•    acute lung injury

Some other possible side effects include:

•    Antibody-Dependent Enhancement (ADE): This happens when the antibodies given to the patient worsen of the immune response instead of making it better. It can result in increased immune-related tissue damage.
•    Coagulation Derangement: The antibodies may also trigger a worsening of clotting problems, which has been noted in advanced COVID-19 cases.
•    Contracting a Blood-Borne Disease: There is also a highly improbable risk of the transmission of an infectious disease through the donated plasma.

The benefits of plasma therapy in COVID-19 far outweigh the slight chance of side effects, the occurrence of which has till yet been quite low.

How to Do Plasma Therapy in COVID-19 Treatment

The doctor has to make the decision whether a COVID-19 patient is to be administered plasma therapy. Initially, about 200 millilitres of donated plasma is administered into the patient’s veins. The procedure takes about 1-2 hours. Depending on how the patient’s body reacts and other factors like the observed effectiveness of plasma therapy in COVID-19 treatment, the doctor may decide to infuse more plasma at a later stage.

About Donating Plasma

With the success rate of plasma therapy for COVID-19 cases, the demand for plasma from recovered donors has increased significantly. The first criterion for plasma donation is of course that one should have recovered from COVID-19. Any woman between the age of 18 and 55 can donate plasma, but only if they have never been pregnant. For men, the same age limit applies.
One is not supposed to donate plasma while they are still battling the disease as they would not have generated enough antibodies to kill the virus and the ones they have will be needed by their own body. The best time to donate plasma is about 2 weeks after one has recovered completely from COVID-19. If one has not had any COVID-19 symptoms for at least 14 days after recovery, they can consider donating their plasma to help someone in need.

The crux of plasma therapy in COVID-19 patients is antibody-containing plasma, so any candidate wishing to donate should be able to produce evidence of their recovery, which means positive as well as subsequent negative test results for COVID-19.
Some things to remember before donating plasma:

•    No alcohol for at least 24 hours before donating. Alcohol remains in the blood for about a day. It also acts as a blood thinner and can lead to excessive bleeding.
•    Do not smoke before donation.
•    Do not consume heavy meals or greasy food before donating.
•    Avoid pain killers or blood-thinning medication for at least 48 hours before the donation. Such medicines can affect your blood platelets.

Whether one has been vaccinated, has recovered from COVID-19, or has undergone plasma therapy, it is still very important to observe basic safety measures. Wearing a proper mask, social distancing, avoiding crowded places, and looking after your hygiene can go a long way in ensuring your safety and health.

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