No evidence to back plasma therapy as Covid-19 treatment: Health ministry

Medics work on samples collected from media professionals for COVID-19 tests, at a special testing centre set up by the Delhi government. Photo: PTI
With Covid-19 deaths nearing 1,000 and cases inching closer to the 30,000-mark, the health ministry on Tuesday issued a strict directive against using plasma therapy to treat coronavirus patients, saying it is still in the experimental stage.

 
The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is conducting a nationwide study to measure the efficacy of this therapy. “There is no treatment for Covid-19 in India or anywhere else globally. The ICMR is using it only for research and trial purposes. There is no evidence to suggest it can be used as a treatment,” said Lav Agarwal, joint secretary at the health ministry.

 
The ministry said till it is approved by the ICMR with robust scientific proof, no claim should be made about the efficacy of the plasma therapy. “The US Food and Drug Administration is also using it as an experimental study. If not used properly this therapy can even be life-threatening,” Agarwal added.

Plasma therapy uses antibodies found in the blood of people who have recovered from an infection (or convalesced), to treat patients. The serum is separated from the blood of a recovered person and screened for virus-neutralising antibodies.

The health ministry has also issued guidelines for patients who are presymptomatic or have very mild symptoms to self isolate at home, if they have the facilities. Patients will have to sign an undertaking for self-isolation after being diagnosed by a medical officer and download the Aarogya Setu app for surveillance purposes.

Family contacts of such a patient will also have to quarantine along with a caregiver who has to be the communication link with the hospital. All family members will have to take hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic. The district surveillance officer will have to be kept updated about progress in the patient’s health. “If the symptoms aggravate then the patient has to go to a health facility,” Agarwal said.

As of Tuesday, there were 17 districts in the country where no new cases had been reported in the last 28 days.

The number of active Covid-19 cases has reached 22,010 as of Tuesday evening, while 7,026 people have recovered, and one patient has migrated, the ministry said. This brings the recovery rate to 23.44 per cent, a slight improvement over Monday’s 22.17 per cent. The doubling rate of cases now stands at 10.2 days. India has conducted a total of 716,733 tests.


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