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Hypoxia: Blood plasma a boon in COVID-19 cases?

Hypoxia. Ventilator.  Image credit: 123rf
Image credit: 123rf

Indian research suggests the use of convalescent plasma therapy may be beneficial in detecting hypoxia in COVID-19 patients.

A randomised control trial conducted by the West Bengal state government and the Centre of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) indicated that the use of convalescent plasma therapy shows Sumati Yengkhom for Times News Network characterised as “an immediate reduction in hypoxia…as compared to patients on standard therapy. The findings also indicate an anti-inflammatory role of the therapy.” 

Hypoxia, as a study explained in August, “is a state in which oxygen is not available in sufficient amounts at tissue level to maintain adequate homeostasis; this can result from inadequate oxygen delivery to the tissues either due to low blood supply or low oxygen content in blood (hypoxemia). 

“Hypoxia can vary in intensity from mild to severe and can present in acute, chronic, or acute and chronic forms. The response to hypoxia is variable; while some tissues can tolerate some forms of hypoxia/ischemia for a longer duration, other tissues are severely damaged by low oxygen levels.”

Given that COVID-19 is a respiratory illness, caused by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) or simply coronavirus, hypoxia is a matter of significant concern. Causing especial consternation among medical professionals is “happy” or “silent” hypoxia, one that Hannah Devlin in The Guardian described as “a mystery that has left doctors questioning the basic tenets of biology: COVID-19 patients who are talking and apparently not in distress, but who have oxygen levels low enough to typically cause unconsciousness or even death.” 

That convalescent plasma therapy has shown promise in addressing hypoxia in COVID-19 patients based on the CSIR / West Bengal state government is positive news. However, convalescent plasma therapy has been far from free of skepticism as it pertains for the treatment of COVID-19 during the pandemic. 

In the earlier stages of the pandemic, as reported by Health Issues India, “research, published in the journal PNAS, involved the use of convalescent plasma therapy for those with severe symptoms of the coronavirus. In addition, hospitals in the US have trialled the therapy, with hospitals in Kerala also utilising the therapy.” Yet, we noted “that the concept of convalescent plasma therapy as a coronavirus treatment is one in its early stages.” 

In the months since, the enthusiasm surrounding convalescent plasma therapy has dissipated somewhat. As a British Medical Journal article published earlier this month noted, “The use of convalescent plasma to treat patients with COVID-19 has understandably attracted a lot of attention, but definitive evidence of efficacy has been elusive.” In India, an Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) randomised control trials of the use of the therapy yielded results TNN described as “unpromising.” 

However, according to Dr Rati Ram, head of the transfusion medicine department at the Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research, said “the results need to be interpreted well. The study says that the therapy cannot be a primary one, but it can be a supportive treatment. Also, it must be given on time to the appropriate lot of patients.”

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