Context: The Delhi government will set up a unique plasma bank for coronavirus patients at the Institute of Liver and Biliary Sciences (ILBS). 

More about news:

  • Delhi was among the first few states to get ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) approval to conduct trials with plasma therapy, which is still at trial stage.
  • The plasma trial is examining if the plasma containing antibodies from recovered patients is beneficial to others as well.

What is Plasma in Blood?

  • Blood plasma is the yellow liquid part of blood.
  • About 55% of our blood is plasma, and the remaining 45% are red blood cells, white blood cells and platelets that are suspended in the plasma.
  • Plasma is about 92% water. It also contains 7% vital proteins such as albumin, gamma globulin and anti-hemophilic factor, and 1% mineral salts, sugars, fats, hormones and vitamins.
  • Blood serum is blood plasma without fibrinogen or the other clotting factors (that is, whole blood minus both the cells and the clotting factors).
  • Convalescent plasma (CP) and fresh frozen plasma (FFP): CP is extracted from a Covid patient who has recovered, and FFP from a person who has no exposure to the particular disease — to serve as a control.

Plasma serves four important functions in our bodies:

  1. Helps maintain blood pressure and volume.
  2. Supply critical proteins for blood clotting and immunity.
  3. Carries electrolytes such as sodium and potassium to our muscles.
  4. Helps to maintain a proper pH balance in the body, which supports cell function.

What is a Plasma Donation?

  • In hospitals, blood plasma is extracted either for medical therapy (plasmapheresis) or diagnostics tests (clinical chemistry, immunology) .
  • Tubes of blood are spun very fast in a centrifuge. The blood cells go to the bottom of the tubes. The plasma is poured into another container. 
  • In a plasma-only donation, the liquid portion of the donor’s blood is separated from the cells. 
  • The donor’s red blood cells and platelets are then returned to the donor along with some saline.
  • Donated plasma is frozen within 24 hours of being donated to preserve its valuable clotting factors. 
  • It can be stored for up to one year and thawed for transfusion to a patient when needed.

Utility of Blood Plasma:

  • Plasma is commonly given to trauma, burn and shock patients, as well as people with severe liver disease or multiple clotting factor deficiencies
  • It helps boost the patient’s blood volume, which can prevent shock, and helps with blood clotting. 
  • Pharmaceutical companies use plasma to make treatments for conditions such as immune deficiencies and bleeding disorders.

About plasma bank: The plasma bank extracts and stores plasma from people who have recovered from Covid-19 and give it to someone suffering from the disease. 

  • Donor criteria: A healthy person between the age group of 18-60 years and with no comorbidities can donate his/her plasma.
    • He/she should have recovered at least three weeks before donating and tested negative for Covid-19 twice.
    • Consent must be taken.

Plasma therapy (plasmapheresis) : Once a person contracts the virus, the blood produces antibodies and certain cells ‘remember’ the antigen and produce antibodies when they come in contact with the same virus again. 

  • The results so far show that the therapy is not as effective on critical patients, but those with moderate symptoms appear to be responding well.
  • CP transfusion showed more improvement than FFP.
  • Benefits so far:
    • Respiratory rate improved:
      • The normal respiration rate for an adult at rest is 12 to 20 breaths per minute. A coronavirus patient’s respiratory rate can soar to 35.36 breaths per minute. 
      • Post administering plasma, the respiratory rate improved substantially with a drop of 8.22 in the first 48 hours and a drop of 14.92 in 7 days. 
    • Oxygen saturation levels improved
      • Normal O2 saturation rate is 95%. 

CP was administered on patients whose O2 Saturation level was 85% and improvement of 6.61% seen within 48 hours.