It’s been four months since the Coronavirus pandemic hit Maharashtra, but so far only 224 Covid-19 survivors have come forward and donated their blood at the 60 blood centres across Maharashtra. Doctors and nurses are struggling to arrange for donors for convalescent plasma therapy (CPT). To make matters worse, some of the blood banks have failed to provide details of the timing, citing excuses like staff crunch and lockdown. Senior officials said they have asked the blood banks to submit detailed reports or be ready to face action.
Owing to the paucity of plasma donors, some potential donors reportedly contacted relatives of patients and offered plasma in exchange for huge amounts of money. To address such issues, the SBTC had decided to make a centralised data of donors from all the blood banks. Following which they had sought detailed reports of plasma donations.
“So far more than 1,000 Covid patients have been recovered from the King Edward Memorial and BYL Nair Hospital, but only 27 patients have donated plasma which means people are still hesitant in donating plasma,” said Arun Thorat, director, SBTC.
The convalescent plasma therapy (CPT) involves injecting plasma from recovered patients into infected patients to improve antibody response in the latter against the coronavirus. The plasmapheresis process takes only 30 minutes. The patient’s blood goes into a machine, which separates plasma and redirects remaining blood back into the donor’s body. Each donor can donate 400 ml to 500 ml of plasma, which can help two patients.
Dr Kedar Toraskar, a member of the Covid Task Force, added that meeting the eligibility criteria is an issue due to which many are not able to donate plasma. "As per the ICMR trial, a recovered patient has to have a high titer (antibodies in the blood) to be eligible to donate plasma. Many blood bank officers in Mumbai I spoke to said that the titer of our patients is not that high, due to which getting the plasma that meets the criteria is difficult," he said.
But the limited availability of plasma affects government hospitals as well. Nair Hospital dean, Dr Mohan Joshi said, “We contact around 50 patients every day of which only 10 per cent come. Around four people are screened, out of which one or two donate based on the criteria.”
Meanwhile, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has started screening camp for plasma donation in Dharavi, one of the hotspots of Covid-19 infection in the state.