Kerala doctor could be India’s first plasma donor

Just a few weeks ago, he was in the news for wrong reasons. But now, he might be the person the state will remember along with its fight against Covid-19.

Published: 11th April 2020 06:21 AM  |   Last Updated: 14th April 2020 05:07 PM   |  A+A-

A recovered COVID-19 patient who has passed his 14-day quarantine, donates plasma in the city's blood center in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province.

A recovered COVID-19 patient who has passed his 14-day quarantine, donates plasma in the city's blood center. (Photo | AP)

Express News Service

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Just a few weeks ago, he was in the news for wrong reasons. But now, he might be the person the state will remember along with its fight against Covid-19. The young doctor at Sree Chitra Thirunal Institute of Science and Technology (SCTIMST), Thiruvananthapuram, who had tested positive and later recovered, could be India’s first plasma donor for convalescent plasma therapy in Covid treatment. In this method, plasma of cured patients who have developed antibodies against SARS-CoV-2 virus is used for Covid treatment.

Top sources said the radiologist has informally expressed his willingness to donate blood plasma. He will be the first donor if he meets the other parameters too. “Informal talks were held with him. He is willing to take part in all research and related activities. However, the formal proceedings will begin only after getting the Drugs Controller General of India’s (DGCI) approval,” said a source. The doctor, who returned from Spain on March 1, tested positive on March 13. Following this, more than 50 medical staff, including doctors of SCTIMST, had to be placed in quarantine.

The doctor was discharged from the Medical College Hospital on March 26 and is currently in two-week mandatory home quarantine. It will take another week for him to rejoin service at the institute. “Currently, discussions are only at the preliminary stage. It will be confirmed only after further discussions,” the doctor told TNIE. His 179 primary and secondary contacts at the hospital have also completed 15 days in home quarantine. A donor is chosen only if he fulfils several other criteria, said a source.

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Sree Chitra Institute got calls from foreign countries

“There will be a test to ensure the donor is not weak, his blood pressure, pulse and temperature are normal, his weight is within advisable limits, he is well hydrated and has no cardiac issues. Based on all these, a final decision will be taken,” said the source. There has been a huge response from various corners for donation of blood plasma for Covid treatment. 

The institute has even received calls from people from abroad who are willing to donate. Currently, the Sree Chitra Institute has been accorded clearance for restricted clinical trials only, said director Dr Asha Kishore. Plasma therapy can be done only after a person satisfies all the criteria, to donate and receive. 

“Across the globe, now it’s being done as a restricted experimental therapy, where both the donors and recipients satisfy all the laid-down criteria. It is being administered to only severely ill patients and ones with life-threatening situation, and where all other therapies have failed. We will begin with severely ill patients. If the results are dramatic, the scope could be further widened,” she said.  

The state has already got permission from the Indian Council of Medical Research to conduct clinical trials. Now, as per the Drugs and Cosmetics Act, approval is needed from DCGI. In addition, the institute should also get approval from its own Ethics Committee which will look into the patients’ safety and their interests, before giving its nod. 

Six hospitals in state to collect plasma 
Once final clearance is issued, five other hospitals besides SCTIMST will be able to collect and store plasma for therapy. They are medical college hospitals in Thiruvananthapuram, Alappuzha, Thrissur and Kannur and the Ernakulam General Hospital. The blood banks at the hospitals will also carry out plasma collection from donors in their region. The doctors at the institutes will have to record the data of patients and outcomes of the study. Dr Debasish Gupta, Head of Transfusion Medicine, SCTIMST, will be responsible for plasma therapy procedures. Data of patients and outcome of clinical trials will be compiled by Dr Anup Kumar, Head of Covid Clinic Centre in Kozhikode. The State Blood Transfusion Council will also have a role, as it regulates the transportation of blood and blood products in Kerala.


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