COVID-19, which was detected for the first time in Wuhan, China in December 2019 and spread in a short time and became a worldwide epidemic (pandemic), affected many people in our country and in the world. In order to reduce the impact of the disease, quarantine and curfew restrictions have been implemented in many parts of the world; Many workplaces have had to switch to models such as remote and rotary working. Researches on treatments such as vaccines and drugs related to combating the virus named COVID-19, the newest member of the coronavirus family, have also been initiated without delay. One of the applications that is frequently heard about the fight against the disease is the treatment method using immune plasma. This application, called immune plasma therapy, is a method that can take place in the treatment process of many diseases, not only COVID-19. Although research on the success rate in the treatment of COVID-19 infection is still continuing, it is one of the treatment methods that can be preferred if deemed appropriate by physicians, especially in severe cases with life-threatening conditions.
What is immune plasma therapy?
Immune plasma therapy is a method that has been known since the 1900s and has been applied, albeit limited. It has been recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO) for MERS, SARS and Ebola outbreaks, which have affected all over the world in the past. Antibodies and proteins against the virus are formed in the blood of patients who have had these diseases and regain their health. These antibodies and proteins are found in human blood plasma, in the structure called serum, in the yellow fluid part. In order for immune plasma therapy to be applied, blood plasmas taken from the patient who has suffered from the disease and recovered are injected into the patient whose condition is severe and critical. Thus, it is aimed to recover the patient who is in critical condition. In addition, it is planned to eliminate the disease before it becomes serious in patients whose condition has not yet become critical and continues in its normal course. COVID-19 causes many serious problems in the human body. Especially in individuals with chronic diseases, the risk ratio is even higher. In the later stages of the disease, shortness of breath and respiratory failure occur. In order to keep patients with shortness of breath and respiratory failure alive, treatment with respiratory devices is required. In addition, such patients are at risk of organ failure. Immune plasma therapy is used in patients who have reached this stage when there is no other treatment method left to be applied. Antibodies and proteins transferred to the patient are expected to eliminate the COVID-19 virus. Thus, the patient can regain his health and return to his normal life.
In which situations is immune plasma therapy applied?
People with chronic medical conditions such as heart disease or diabetes, and patients with serious conditions that weaken the immune system are more vulnerable to the COVID-19 virus. In case individuals with such diseases become infected, they should be kept under surveillance and treatment should be done without wasting time. The most important step of these treatments is to connect patients to respiratory support units. However, it is thought that immune plasma therapy may have an important role in curing the disease. It has not yet been proven by the World Health Organization whether the treatment has healing properties. It is not yet known whether the treatment has any side effects and whether it will cause a harmful effect. However, immune plasma therapy seems to be the only applicable treatment method in the fight against COVID-19 for now. Nevertheless, it is expected that the patient’s condition becomes serious in order to apply this treatment in order not to harm any patient. Because in the normal process, there is a possibility that the patient will recover on his own. For this reason, it is not preferred to apply a treatment method, whose positive effects have not been definitely proven, in the early stages of the disease. Despite all this, in different countries of the world, immune plasma treatment is applied for patients who are suitable.
How to donate blood for immune plasma therapy?
For the application of immune plasma therapy, it is necessary to take blood from a patient who has previously had COVID-19 disease and has recovered. Volunteerism is essential in the blood collection process. The volunteer donor first fills in the necessary forms as in normal blood donation and is examined. Necessary laboratory tests are applied to determine whether the blood taken is suitable for the patient. If the tests performed are successful, the donor is placed in a suitable environment for donation. With the method called apheresis, the necessary blood components of the donor are taken to be transferred to the patient. The apheresis process takes approximately 45-60 minutes. It is not much different from normal blood donation, only the components to be transferred are taken instead of taking the whole blood. In order to donate, it is necessary to be between the ages of 18-60 and 14 days have passed since recovery. At the end of this 14-day period, the COVID-19 test should be negative. In addition, for female donors, she should not be pregnant, have not had a previous miscarriage or had an abortion. There is no health hazard for the person who will donate blood. Since the necessary tests are carried out for donors who may cause problems in the transfer process, donation is not carried out if there is any risk.
What are the risks of immune plasma therapy?
Blood and plasma treatments have been used to treat many diseases since the early 1900s and it is a very successful method. The state of contracting COVID-19 has not yet been tested for an individual transplanted with the transfer of plasmas taken from a previously recovered individual to another individual. However, the researchers believe that the risk is very low in such cases, because there is no case of infection as the plasma donor is completely cured. However, immune plasma therapy carries the risks of allergic reactions, lung damage and breathing difficulties, transmission of infections such as HIV, Hepatitis-B and C. The risk of transmission of these infections is very low because the necessary blood tests are performed before the necessary blood components are taken from the donor to avoid any risk. As a result of the positive blood tests, the necessary components are separated. Thus, the risk is minimized. Other than that, there is no identified risk. In addition, immune plasma therapy has also been used in the treatment of epidemic diseases such as H1N1 (swine flu), H5N1 (bird flu), MERS, Ebola and SARS. A very high success rate has been achieved in the treatment of these diseases. Considering all these, the risks that may occur are evaluated by experts and treatment is applied.
What are the expectations from immune plasma therapy?
Immune plasma therapy is an effective method that has been used in many epidemic diseases before. Therefore, its application in the treatment of COVID-19 has been foreseen by experts. However, it is also possible that there is no effect after the treatment. However, it was observed that the body resistance of the patients increased at a certain level after the treatment. According to the results from patients who received immune plasma therapy, it can also take its place as a permanent method in the treatment of COVID-19. Immune plasma therapy is applied in many countries of the world for pre-treatment. The reason why the treatment is so prominent is that the disease is viral. Because it is necessary to have the necessary immunity in order for viral diseases to not have an effect on the human body. This immunity is acquired by the necessary antibodies and proteins in the blood. The necessary components taken from the patient who recovered as a result of viral infections with transplantation are transferred to the patient and the antibodies are expected to fight the virus. Thus, a certain resistance is obtained in the body of the sick individual.