Medical experts have urged the government to undertake a national programme to expand the scope of convalescent plasma therapy for treating Covid-19 patients as the method has been gaining traction for its effectiveness.
The technical sub-committee on Covid-19 diagnosis and laboratory observed that there is a huge demand for the therapy and recommended that the government take action so that the people can have better access to the treatment.
The committee said public and private hospitals with necessary equipment can collect plasma and administer the therapy.
But there should be a regulatory body to guide and monitor the whole process, said a member of the sub-committee that made the recommendations at a meeting on May 20.
"Plasma of 21 people who recovered from Covid-19 has been collected at Dhaka Medical College Hospital. So far, 18 patients have received the therapy," said Prof MA Khan, haematologist at Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH).
He said it was not possible for DMCH alone to meet the increasing demand for the therapy and recommended that the other hospitals be involved.
He also encouraged the initiatives of some private hospitals that have been collecting, supplying and administering the therapy.
Gonoshasthaya Kendra Founder and Trustee Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, who tested Covid-19 positive on May 24, has also received the plasma therapy.
The 79-year old physician, also a kidney patient, said he found plasma therapy very effective and that his organisation had decided to establish a plasma bank.
"Plasma therapy works like magic. I have realised it after receiving the therapy. I felt much energised after the therapy [on Thursday]. All patients should have access to this therapy," he told The Daily Star yesterday.
Convalescent Plasma therapy can quickly develop a passive immune system in a patient's body which helps the person to fight against the virus, said Prof Khan, who is also the head of the technical sub-committee on plasma therapy and a member of the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) formed to combat the coronavirus.
Medical scientists in the US and China, as well as other countries, have found that those who recover from Covid-19 develop a neutralising antibody in their plasma. This antibody, if transfused into an infected person, can destroy the virus.
Prof MA Khan said that in a country like Bangladesh, this therapy is really important to save lives as plasma is free of cost whereas the drugs being developed to treat Covid-19 could be too expensive for the poor.
The collection of plasma and administering of the therapy, however, involve a certain amount of money.
Therefore, he said, the sub-committee on plasma therapy has recommended a national programme and an initial fund of Tk 1 crore from the health ministry.
"We have already made a proposal to the health ministry and are now waiting for the reply," he said yesterday.
"Some hospitals, including Gonoshasthaya, Green Life, Bangladesh Specialised Hospital and DMFR Molecular Lab & Diagnostics, have already agreed to work together. We are trying to form a group and follow a common protocol in the collection, supply and administering of plasma," Prof Khan said.
The government, therefore, should have the database of all the Covid-19 patients and inspire the recovered patients to donate plasma two weeks after their recovery, he said.
Recovered male patients aged between 18 and 55 can donate plasma while female belong to the same age group with no history of conception can also donate it, he said.
"It's like donating blood. It is not harmful to the donor," the haematologist added.