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In a first in Kerala, sinking COVID-19 patient saved with plasma therapy

KOCHI: In a first in the state, doctors used plasma therapy to save the life of a COVID-19 patient at the Government Medical College (GMC) in Thrissur. The 51-year-old man was taken off the ventilator on Monday evening, four days after the therapy, and is now recuperating in the ICU.

The therapy involves the separation of antibodies from a person cured of the novel coronavirus and its subsequent infusion into the vein of the COVID-19 patient in a critical condition.

The benefactor was a man who had returned from Delhi. He tested positive for COVID-19 on June 6 and faced acute respiratory complications five days later, warranting the use of a ventilator. On June 11 night, the patient underwent the convalescent plasma collection therapy that lasted till daybreak.

“The procedure requires volunteers who have recovered from COVID-19 and are above the age of 18. They can donate plasma, the yellowish liquid component of the blood, between the first and fourth months after cure,” said Dr M A Andrews, principal of the GMC. “The therapy has proven its potential of giving COVID-19 patients a fresh lease of life.”

Convalescent plasma therapy relies on an apparatus called apheresis that separates the plasma from the donor’s blood. Unlike the usual blood donation, the remainder here returns to the donor’s circulation.

“In one go, we take 400 grams of plasma. Then we transfuse it into the COVID-19 patient in two phases of 200 grams each,” reveals Dr Andrews, adding, “The therapy has absolutely no side effects.”

At GMC Thrissur, last week’s convalescent plasma therapy was carried out by doctors and technicians of the departments of medicine, transfusion medicine and anesthesia. The team also administered the immunosuppressive drug Tocilizumab (also known as atlizumab) typically used to treat arthritis. The GMC Thrissur got an apheresis machine last month.

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