Plasma therapy unit working to apply the life-saving treatment to novel coronavirus is seeking plasma from Covid-19 survivors as it sees high demand for the therapy amid rise in the infection every day.
"We are getting calls from people infected by the novel coronavirus for plasma therapy. We have already extracted plasma from three survivors. We need more. We can save more lives if we get more donors," said Prof MA Khan, who heads the technical sub-committee on plasma therapy.
The health ministry has in principle approved the protocol on plasma therapy, and administration of the therapy will begin in a day or two, he told The Daily Star yesterday.
"What we need the most is donors of plasma," said Prof Khan of Bone Marrow Transplantation at the Department of Hematology of Dhaka Medical College Hospital. He has been recently co-opted as a member to the National Technical Advisory Committee (NTAC) formed to combat coronavirus pandemic.
Convalescent Plasma therapy can quickly develop passive immune system of a person against a virus and fight Covid-19 and thus can help save lives before any vaccine or medicine is developed.
Medical scientists in the US and China as well as other studies have found that those who recover from Covid-19 develop neutralising antibody in their plasma. This antibody, if transfused into the body of an infected person, can destroy the virus and save the infected ones.
Plasma therapy was used effectively before the specific treatment was developed for H1N1 influenza (Spanish virus), Ebola, SARS-1 and MERS virus. Elderly people who are critically ill and health workers could be priority groups for administration of this plasma therapy, said Dr Khan.
Prof Khan had prepared a protocol of the therapy and applied to the health ministry for approval in late April. The NTAC also recommended that the therapy is applied. The health ministry also approved it in principle, and formal approval could be issued in a day or two.
Meanwhile, three survivors of Covid-19 -- physicians Dildar Hossain Badol of Shaheed Shuhrawardy Medical College Hospital and Rawnak Jamil of Salimullah Medical College Hospital and a journalist Ashiqur Rahman Apu of ATN News -- donated plasma.
Male survivors of Covid-19 aged 18 to 55 and unmarried women of the same age can donate plasma. Married women cannot donate because of scientific reasons, said Dr MA Khan. There is no legal bar for collecting plasma. It's more or less safe and like the way people donate blood, he said.
Initially, Dr Khan said they have decided to administer the therapy on 45 Covid-19 patients. However, as Covid-19 infection is increasing, it is obvious that people will be demanding this therapy more and more.
"We, therefore, want an extended emergency access programme. This means, we should go for collection of more plasma and apply to more people," he said.
Many of the private hospitals too have machines for collecting plasma and those could also be used for this purpose, he said.
However, the government needs to have a protocol for that and a regulatory body. The present plasma therapy sub-committee can be the regulatory body for management of plasma collection, preservation and administration.
"For all this to happen, we need more plasma donors. Young people and members of police who recovered from Covid-19 can easily donate plasma. It will save lives," said Dr MA Khan.