COVID-19 Relief: Kerala seeks approval to test plasma transfusion therapy

Updated: Apr 11, 2020, 09:55 IST | Vinod Kumar Menon | Mumbai

A team of health professionals from Kerala have submitted their line of treatment protocol study using CP Therapy to the state health ministry which has been sent to ICMR for approval in March

A doctor said the CP Therapy has been effective in other outbreaks in the past like the Nippa virus in 2018, H1N1 in 2008 and the 1918 flu
A doctor said the CP Therapy has been effective in other outbreaks in the past like the Nippa virus in 2018, H1N1 in 2008 and the 1918 flu

With no antiviral medicines available in the world to treat novel COVID-19, health experts from Kerala are hopeful that 'Convalescent Plasma Transfusion' or CP Therapy might work on SARS-COVID 2 patients who are in a critical condition. A team of senior health professionals from Kerala has already submitted their line of treatment protocol study using CP Therapy to the Kerala State Health Ministry and it was forwarded to the ICMR in March last week for their approval.

Kerala officials claimed that the ICMR has given their permission to conduct the test on April 8. However, senior scientists at ICMR told mid-day that no such permission has been granted yet. Things are still under process.

Dr Anoop Kumar, consultant and chief of Critical Care Medicine at BM Hospital, Calicut, said, "The Kerala government had a meeting on March 20 with senior health professionals where it was agreed upon to use CP Therapy. We have come across case studies of successful results seen during clinical trial usage of CP Therapy for treating COVID-19 in China, South Korea, and other countries. However, it is yet to be published in an international journal."

CP Therapy has been effective in other virus outbreaks in the past like the Nippa virus in 2018, H1N1 in 2008 and the 1918 flu outbreak, the doctor added.

Explaining the therapy, he said that plasmas will be collected from those patients who have tested positive for Covid-19 and have recovered well. A 55-year-old recovered patient can donate around 800 ml of plasma that can be directly extracted from the blood, and this can save four lives - 200 ml can be given to critical patients.

Donor protocol must

However, a donor protocol mandates that the donor should not have any fever, or foreign travel history or respiratory infection, and should have remained in self-isolation for 14 days post-discharge and the swab collected after the self-quarantine period should be negative.

Kerala has over 80 patients who have recovered from COVID-19, and around 360 are being treated, of which one is on ventilator and two others are in a critical condition. "We divide COVID-19 patients into three categories — mild, moderate and severe. The CP therapy can be started for any patient from a severe-moderate stage to prevent him from going to the severe stage," explained Dr Kumar.

'Wave off some criteria'

The team has approached the Drug Controller General of India to wave off the criteria for collecting plasmas from recovered patients so that the antigen levels can be checked before the collection is done. "Once the permissions are in, we will be able to start the study and plasmas can be collected and preserved for years," Dr Kumar said.

He also added that this therapy had worked on a handful of cases in the past and Kerala will be more than glad to share the technique if it is successful here.

Infectious disease expert at Jaslok hospital, Om Shrivastava, said that while the therapy might be successful, "health officials need to be very careful about the selection of patients, as (CPT) cannot be the only single therapy model to work on any patient."

ICMR approval in a day or two

Senior scientists from ICMR said that the approvals usually come from the top which might take a day or two more. Another expert said, "The collection and storage of blood and the plasma extracted from the blood require FDA approval. A clinical protocol is possible only once all the three bodies Drug Controller General of India (DGCI), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and ICMR grant permission."

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