After Delhi, Chennai will soon have the country’s second ‘plasma bank’ at the Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital (RGGGH). The Tamil Nadu government is expediting the work to establish the facility at a cost of ₹2 crore.

In the absence of a ‘drug of choice’ for treatment of COVID-19, the State government obtained the approval from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) to take up the trial of convalescent plasma therapy for patients with moderate COVID-19. Under this, 500 ml of plasma is collected from a person who has recovered from the disease through the apheresis method and transfused to patients.

So far, 18 of the 20 patients who received plasma under the trial have recovered at RGGGH, while one patient has recovered at the Government Rajaji Hospital, Madurai, Health Minister C. Vijayabaskar said in a release.

In addition to these two institutions, a trial is set to begin at the Tirunelveli Government Medical College Hospital. As per the guidelines of the Drugs Controller, blood banks that possess the licence for apheresis machines are permitted to accept plasma donations. The Government Stanley Medical College Hospital, the Tamil Nadu Government Multi Super Specialty Hospital and the Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University in Chennai and government medical college hospitals in Tiruchi, Salem and Coimbatore will soon accept plasma donations.

Eligible donors

Persons aged 18-65 can donate plasma. Patients who have tested positive for COVID-19 are eligible to donate plasma 14 days after their swab returns negative for COVID-19. Those with co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiac diseases, cancer and kidney diseases and those who have undergone organ transplants and surgeries cannot donate plasma.

Persons who come forward to donate plasma will undergo screening, and a maximum of 500 ml of plasma will be collected from eligible donors. The process will take 30 minutes and persons can donate plasma twice in 28 days. The plasma can be stored at -40 degrees Celsius for a year.

Mr. Vijayabaskar said that when steroids and other medications did not help patients or when the oxygen requirement kept increasing, plasma therapy could offer a higher chance of recovery. Patients required transfusion of 200 ml of plasma each for two days. Antibodies in the transfused plasma could neutralise the virus, reducing the viral load and the patients’ dependence on oxygen support, he said.

The Minister appealed to persons who had recovered from COVID-19 to donate plasma without fear. This was a lifesaving initiative, and would help reduce deaths, according to the release.

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