Red Cross plans log of recovered patients
The Indian Red Cross Society is starting a dedicated database of people who have recovered from coronavirus disease (Covid-19) , and who can therefore be potential plasma donors for convalescent plasma therapy (use of blood from the recovered patients to treat severely sick patents) which can be done under the clinical trial mode.
The therapy isn’t approved by the Indian Council of Medical Research as a regular line of treatment and the health ministry said on Tuesday that it can only be done as a trial, with requisite clearances from regulators.
Still, the Indian Red Cross’ blood bank has already started receiving queries from relatives of Covid-19 patients looking for plasma from a recovered patient. The society plans to online counselling of short-listed recovered patients to encourage them to donate their plasma for the study.
“In a day or two, the Red Cross of India will begin psychosocial counselling of shortlisted recovered Covid-19 patients to prepare them as plasma donors. Our job is to look through the pile of recovered patients, and screen those who could be potential plasma donors. Once shortlisted these people will be counselled by our experts,” says Dr Vanshree Singh, director (blood bank), Indian Red Cross Society.
The society plans to speak to hospitals to get details of patients who recovered in past one month. After they get the list, it will be narrowed down further to those who will be eligible to donate, and the final list will be recommended to the government.
“Ideally we will be looking at the recovery time of 28 days, but anything over 14 is good. Our regular blood donation criteria will apply along with the fact that they should have completely recovered from Covid-19. Eligible donors have to be between 18 and 50 years (of age), with no co-morbid conditions such as heart, kidney disease, diabetes etc. Even women can donate but not those with more than one children as their antibodies don’t work. Unmarried women who fulfil other criteria can also donate,” said Dr Singh.
The Red Cross will forward the list of shortlisted possible donors to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) in Delhi because the actual donation will only happen in a hospital setting.
“These people need to be bled in the intensive care unit (ICU) settings because in a stand-alone blood bank one can’t provide the kind of medical support that these people might require. So, the blood donation has to be done in a hospital,” Dr Singh said.
The Red Cross will be sharing the database only with approved government facilities.
As convalescent plasma therapy has shown promise in helping very sick Covid-19 patients recover, various countries including India are conducting trials to know its true potential as a treatment .
Hospitals and research facilities can enrol patients as part of a clinical trial after receiving necessary approvals from the drugs controller general of India.
Union health minister Harsh Vardhan last Tuesday held a video meeting with the Indian Red Cross Society and asked it to contact recovered patients and encourage them to donate blood . However, health ministry has made it clear that the treatment is to be conducted only as part of a trial with the requisite permissions.
A section of experts say if the therapy has shown promise then clinical trials can be skipped to save time.
“I have been arguing for plasma therapy without a clinical trial, as it is safe to give as compared to other medicines. However, it is critical to properly document the results,” says Dr T Jacob John, former head of virology department, CMC Vellore.
Dr Dharma Choudhary, a senior specialist in bone marrow transplant in India isn’t so sure: “It is a crude way of giving immunoglobulin, which are virus specific antibodies, with a belief that it will probably give some protection. I’d say it will be better than giving a placebo to a dying patient with no hope.”