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Delhi to Continue Plasma Therapy for Coronavirus Patients Despite ICMR Study Showing No Benefit

By: Rupashree Nanda

CNN-News18

Last Updated: September 10, 2020, 21:58 IST

In plasma therapy, antibodies from the blood of a person who has recovered from coronavirus are transfused into a coronavirus infected patient. (Photo: Pixabay)

In plasma therapy, antibodies from the blood of a person who has recovered from coronavirus are transfused into a coronavirus infected patient. (Photo: Pixabay)

Delhi's health minister Satyendar Jain said that more than a thousand coronavirus patients in Delhi have been treated with plasma therapy and many lives have been saved.

Covid-19 patients in national capital will continue to be treated with blood plasma donated by survivors of the novel coronavirus, Delhi’s health minister Satyendar Jain said on Thursday despite clinical trials not proving whether plasma therapy can help people fighting the infection.

A trial conducted across 39 hospitals in India and spearheaded by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) found on Thursday that plasma therapy neither reduces the death risk nor does it slow down the progression of the disease from mild to severe stage, but Jain sought to dispute the findings of the study, which is the largest yet conducted, and asserted that the treatment will continue.

“ICMR had its own study. As far as very serious cases are concerned, there are three stages in the ICU - 1, 2 and 3. We had made it clear that it will not help once a person reaches stage 3. However, in stage 1 and stage 2, there are many benefits,” he claimed.

The health minister added that ICMR is not saying that there is no benefit to plasma therapy, and instead what it is saying is that if a patient is put on a ventilator, perhaps the plasma therapy will not benefit. However, before a patient reaches stage 3, it does benefit. The minister, who had himself undergone plasma therapy when he was Covid-19-positive, said that he had benefitted from the therapy.

But the ICMR study, conducted on 464 moderately-ill patients with breathing difficulties, showed that a total of 34 patients or 13.6 per cent of those who received plasma therapy could not recover and died, while 31 patients or 14.6 per cent of those who did not receive plasma died. The study said 17 patients in each group progressed to have severe disease.

Plasma therapy, however, had minor benefits in reducing symptoms like shortness of breath and fatigue and it had no effect on other symptoms like fever and cough.

Several states like Delhi, Odisha, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are conducting plasma therapy to tackle the outbreak of coronavirus. In Delhi, it was widely promoted by the government.

Delhi was also the first to create a ‘plasma bank’ to help Covid-19 patients seeking blood plasma for treatment. In plasma therapy, antibodies from the blood of a person who has recovered from coronavirus are taken and transfused into a coronavirus infected patient to fight the infection.

Asserting that the government will keep the course on plasma therapy, Jain pointed out that the therapy is not new. “Plasma is used to treat many diseases and now is being used to treat Covid-19 patients also. The reason is that there has been no specific treatment for Coronavirus yet,” he said, adding that more than a thousand people in Delhi have been treated with plasma therapy and many lives have been saved.

The government, he said, is not banking on plasma therapy alone. Jain said that the aim of the Delhi government is ‘zero casualty’ and all means are being tried, treatment protocols have been standardised and attention has been given to each minute detail. Delhi CM Arvind Kejriwal had at a review meeting decided to increase the number of ICU beds in the capital in the wake of rising Covid-19 numbers.

On Wednesday, Delhi recorded the highest ever daily rise in Covid-19 cases with 4,039 new infections taking the total tally to over 2 lakh. The death increased to 4,638 with 20 more fatalities.

However, Jain pointed out that the number of tests, at 54,517 tests was also the highest conducted so far. He said the positivity rate for Wednesday was 7.41 per cent, which is close to the national average of 7.5 per cent. Earlier, Delhi’s positivity rate used to be 30 per cent, then it dipped to 20 per cent, 18 per cent , 17 per cent and now it is hovering around 7.5 per cent to 8 per cent.

“Since the opening up of the economy, we have started testing very aggressively. We had a target of 40,000 tests per day but now we have exceeded 50,000 tests per day. The attempt is to trace a Covid-19-positive people quickly so that risk of further spread of infections is reduced,” he said.

Jain said that it is possible that cases keep rising for another 10 to 15 days, but he expressed confidence that this strategy will work. The minister said that instructions have been given to each and every district in Delhi to have testing centres in crowded places, including malls.

first published:September 10, 2020, 12:37 IST
last updated:September 10, 2020, 21:58 IST
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