Jamaica Starting Controversial Plasma Therapy For Covid-19.

Photo: Ian Furst. The red blood removed from a donor is first spun in a centrifuge to remove the red blood cells and leave the straw-colored plasma that can be used for treatments.
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Kingston, Jamaica–September 11th, 2020–Minister of Health and Wellness, Dr. the Hon. Christopher Tufton, has appealed to persons who have recovered from Covid-19 to donate blood for plasma therapy for other patients critically ill with the virus.

The Minister’s appeal is in support of a call by the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI) for COVID-19 survivors to donate blood.

Speaking on Thursday, Dr. Tufton said the approach by the UHWI is one that is being tested globally and has been approved by the hospital’s ethics board.

“Essentially, they get positive recovered cases to donate blood and they extract from that the plasma, which should have some antibodies, and they use that to treat existing positive cases, more specifically, those who are being severely affected by the COVID infection,” the Minister explained.

“I say to Jamaicans, if you had COVID and recovered and you think that this is something you’d like to participate in, to contact the UHWI. I’m sure they’ll give you all the other details of this and it may be worth your while to contribute to helping to treat other patients,” he said.

He noted that the procedure is relatively harmless for the blood donor and could prove to be beneficial for the patient who will be treated.

“So, it really is giving back based on the all-of-society approach to treating with the COVID response,” Dr. Tufton said.

The Minister informed that UHWI has been receiving positive response to the call for blood donors, although he did not state exactly how many donors have come forward so far in Jamaica.

Meanwhile Forbes magazine reported yesterday that a new scientific study from India reported that while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has authorized emergency use of convalescent plasma therapy to treat Covid-19 patients, new findings from a randomized control trial conducted by India’s government found that plasma therapy doesn’t work.

The findings, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, were published online this week in the pre-print server Medrxiv.

“We were hoping for more promising results with this therapy. Had it shown beneficial effects, it would have been a great addition to the treatment protocols,” said Dr. Varsha Godbole, professor and head of department of medicine at GMERS medical college in Vadodara, Gujarat, India’s western state, which was one of the centers in the trial.

Plasma therapy involves removing blood plasma from patients who have recovered from Covid-19 and injecting it into patients with severe cases of the virus with the rationale that the transfusion can kick start an immune response in the recipients to fight off the infection and prevent its progression.

However, some doctors in India, where plasma therapy has been widely used, said they will continue using the therapy after a careful screening of patients, arguing that it can still be effective if applied in the early stages of the illness.

Dr. Om Srivastava, a Mumbai-based infectious disease specialist, who had led the trial at one of the centers said a blanket conclusion that plasma therapy doesn’t work is premature.

The trial, he said,only looked at “moderately ill patients” and didn’t include patients in the initial stages of the viral infection.

“I think plasma therapy works very well in the early stage, in the first five to seven days. If you select your patients correctly then there is a benefit,” said Dr. Srivastava, adding that there needs to be further analysis about comorbidities among patients who received the therapy and how that may have impacted the findings.

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