Docs advocate plasma therapy for critically ill COVID patients


With the number of COVID fatalities surging in Nepal, doctors are advocating plasma therapy for critically ill patients.

Coordinator of Tribhuvan University Teaching Hospital COVID-19 Management Committee Coordinator Santa Kumar Das said all the five COVID-19 patients who received plasma therapy at TUTH had made good progress and there was need to encourage plasma therapy across the country to treat critically ill COVID-19 patients.

“The National Health and Research Council is doing research to ascertain the efficacy of plasma therapy among COVID-19 patients. We can tell you of its efficacy only after the council publishes its report, but given the progress made by COVID patients at TUTH, I can say that this therapy has been effective for critically ill COVID patients,” he added.

Das said TUTH had advanced technology that would draw only plasma from donors and the process was simpler than blood donation.

Das, however, said recovered patients were not enthusiastic about donating plasma.

“I do not know why recovered patients are not coming forward to donate plasma.

Maybe the government, media and celebrities should appeal to the recovered patients to donate plasma,”

Das said. He added that TUTH had the technology to treat four patients from one donor’s plasma. He said the hospital could also send plasma to other hospitals to treat critical ill patients.

Transfusion Medicine expert Bipin Nepal said he called up 200 patients who had recovered from COVID-19 seeking their plasma, but not even two came forward to donate their plasma.

Nepal said there was shortage of transfusion medicine experts in the country, particularly outside Kathmandu, and if plasma therapy was to be encouraged, then medical staff should also be trained.

He said he had trained some medical staff in Dharan and Birgunj to provide plasma therapy to critically ill COV- ID-19 patients.

“Red Cross and the government were supposed to take the lead in plasma therapy but they are not doing that,” he added. Nepal said training medical staff about plasma therapy was important, as plasma therapy could cause mild to serious side effects. “It can cause allergic reaction and may even damage lungs,” he added.

Anup Bastola, Consultant Tropical Medicine at Sukraraj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Teku, said Red Cross and National Public Health Laboratory should be roped in for collecting plasma for starting plasma therapy across the country.

“Plasma therapy should be available in all parts of the country and not just in Kathmandu valley,” he said.

He added that recovered patients should be urged to donate plasma and their contribution should be appreciated.

Assistant Spokesperson for the Ministry of Health and Population Samir Kumar Adhikari said National Health Research Council had been researching about the efficacy of plasma therapy and the ministry would approve the method if the council recommended the therapy. Everywhere, plasma therapy, remdesivir and vaccines are in trial phase.

The ministry has asked the council to submit a report based on its own research and research conducted in other countries. The council’s report will help the government decide,” he added.

Anjani Kumar Sharma, chairperson of Nepal Health Research Council, said his office had permitted 12 hospitals to conduct trial of plasma therapy which would be analysed by his office.

National Health Research Council researcher Meghnath Dhimal said his office had initially planned to include 100 patients in the research, but since COVID cases were rising sharply, his office would analyse data of lower number and make recommendation. As of now, plasma therapy is having a positive effect on COVID, although some patients who received this therapy did not survive,” he said.

Dhimal said his office would present its research report after analysing what percentage of patients had recovered and in how many days. More than 20 COVID-19 patients have received plasma therapy until now.

As per the government’s guidelines, only those patients who need ventilator support due to COVID-19 related pneumonia and whose oxygen saturation is lower than 93 qualify for plasma therapy.

COVID patients who are at risk of suffering organ failure also qualify for plasma therapy.

Between five and 15 per cent of COVID-19 patients require Intensive care unit care and out of the total positive cases, around five per cent patients need ventilator support.