Clinical trials of plasma therapy yet to gain government approval
Amid the lack of drug therapies or vaccines for the highly contagious Covid-19, Dhaka Medical College Hospital (DMCH) has begun collecting plasma for experimental trial and research.
The process began on Saturday with the collection of plasma from Dr. Delwar Hossain who recovered from Covid-19 recently.
The plasma sample was collected with an Apheresis machine, used to collect specific blood components such as plasma, DMCH Director Brig Gen AKM Nasir told Dhaka Tribune.
The DMCH is now seeking government permission to start a clinical trial for Convalescent Plasma Therapy, which uses antibodies from the blood of cured patients to treat critically ill patients, he said.
“The National Technical committee and Bangladesh Medical Research Council (BMRC) has given ethical permission to collect plasma for conducting experimental research and study,” he said.
“Earlier, we used to collect plasma from the blood of a cured person. But now only red blood cells and white blood cells will be collected by machine and the rest of the serum will go back to the body,” he said.
Once the government allows plasma therapy, only then can a clinical trial be initiated, said AKM Nasir, adding: “It’s now at the experiment level.
“After getting permission, experiments will be done with two groups of Covid-19 patients. One group will be treated using plasma therapy, the other by the normal method.”
The therapy will be applied to patients at DMCH for the first time only after a successful experiment of the process, he said.
“It is only needed for critical patients (5% of total infected) who are now admitted at the ICU, and is not necessary for other Covid-19 patients,” he added.
Recovered patients urged to donate plasma
The DMCH authorities have urged all recovered patients to donate plasma so that it can be used for the treatment and recovery of critical patients.
Prof M A Khan, head of DMCH’s Bone Marrow Transplant (BMT) unit, and Department of Hematology, said permission is required to get funding for a clinical trial.
“If everything goes well, the trial of plasma therapy on the human body can be completed within six months,” Dr Khan added.
He said they have set a target to end clinical trials within two months and to analyze the feedback in two weeks while the patient is under treatment using this therapy.
However, Covid-19 convalescent plasma has not yet been approved for use by the United States (US) Food and Drug Administration and is now being regulated as an investigational product.
For decades, doctors have used plasma or even whole blood from recovered patients to treat the newly infected.
‘Plasma therapy reduced Covid-19 deaths by 40% in Iran’
In Iran, plasma therapy has reduced Covid-19 deaths by 40%, reports Tehran Times, quoting doctors.
In March, a 100-year-old man from China was discharged from the hospital after recovering from Covid-19, making him the oldest known patient to successfully recover from the disease. Doctors used a variety of methods such as convalescent plasma therapy and traditional Chinese medicine for his treatment.
Earlier, plasma therapy was used for the first time for a patient admitted at the Ever Care Hospital in Dhaka on May 6.
DMCH’s Dr. Joardar Rakin Manzoor was the first to donate plasma.
The government on April 17 formed the national technical subcommittee for plasma treatment under the Directorate General of Health Services (DGHS).
On April 28, the blood transfusion department at the DMCH decided to explore the convalescent plasma therapy option to treat Covid-19 patients and was directed by DGHS to supervise other hospitals across the country in this regard.
Bangladesh reported its first Covid-19 cases on March 8 and the tally of infections is now above 21,000.