'It is a passive therapy which may work to improve a patient’s immunity'
The blood transfusion department of Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) has decided to explore convalescent plasma therapy options to treat Covid-19 patients and will supervise other hospitals across the country in this regard.
A national technical subcommittee led by Prof M A Khan, head of DMCH’s bone marrow transplant (BMT) unit and department of haematology, disclosed the matter to Dhaka Tribune on Monday.
“If Covid-19 patients, during the early stages of the illness, are treated with plasma therapy then their chances of quick recovery increases.
“It is a passive therapy which may work to improve a patient’s immunity,” said Dr Khan.
Earlier on April 18, Dr Abul Kalam Azad, director general of the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS), informed the media that they had formed a four-member national technical subcommittee – DMCH’s Prof Khan, Prof Ahmedul Kabir of the department of medicine, Prof Mazharul Haque Tapan of the transfusion medicine department, and Saifullah Munshi, head of virology at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) -- to prepare a protocol for this treatment approach.
On Monday, the subcommittee submitted the protocol with some recommendations to the DGHS.
“DMCH will be working with other hospitals treating Covid-19 patients across the country, to develop plasma therapy,” added Dr Khan.
Dr Shyamal Sarkar, professor of the department of medicine at DMCH, said they have received directives to collect blood samples (serum) from recovered Covid-19 patients.
“We will be working jointly with other hospitals soon,” Dr Shyamal added.
Moreover, DGHS is now looking for funds to implement the proposed protocol while awaiting ethical permission from the Bangladesh Medical Research Centre (BMRC) to implement the treatment option.
“We have given suggestions for experiments to explore the convalescent plasma therapy option for treating Covid-19 patients,” said Dr Khan, a pioneering figure in bone marrow transplant in Bangladesh.
“A patient, between 18 to 60 years of age and weighing around 58kg, who has recovered from Covid-19 can donate serum for the therapy. But that person has to come negative in two consecutive tests for the deadly virus.
“We have suggested the DGHS prioritize those who are old, critically ill, and health workers, for plasma therapy,” said Dr Khan.
Meanwhile, internationally, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved such treatment measures as an Investigational New Drug (IND) for Clinical Investigations on April 3 and gave guidelines with conditions on April 18.
Who will be eligible to donate convalescent plasma?
The national technical subcommittee also provided an outline to the DGHS regarding the criteria for plasma donors, who will be eligible for the therapy, how to collect plasma, its preservation methods, and how to measure the level of antibody in plasma.
“We have to select donors who have recovered from Covid-19 before checking their blood group. Also, the level of neutralizing antibodies in their blood plasma will have to be like 1:160.
“The potential donor will also have to test negative for HBV, HCB, HIV, malaria, Ebola, SARS-1, and the MERS virus,” said Dr Khan.
“Initially, we will give patients who are undergoing treatment for Covid-19, 200ml of plasma for recovery,” he added.
“An individual will only be eligible for donation after he or she shows no coronavirus symptoms -- fever, cough, shortness of breath – within 14 to 27 days of testing negative,” he said.
In Iran, plasma therapy has reduced Covid-19 deaths by 40%, reports Tehran Times, quoting doctors.
In March, a 100-year-old man from China was discharged from the hospital after recovering from Covid-19, making him the oldest known patient to successfully recover from the disease. Doctors used a variety of methods such as convalescent plasma therapy and traditional Chinese medicine for his treatment.
The use of convalescent plasma for Covid-19 patients trials is taking place across the world, including in Germany, France, and the US.
As of Tuesday, Bangladesh confirmed 6,462 coronavirus cases with the death toll rising to 155 after three new fatalities were reported.
The fast spreading Covid-19 has so far killed 212,000 people in more than 200 countries and territories.