Two days ago I got an urgent SOS asking me if I knew any Covid-recovered patient as a colleague’s relative down with the coronavirus needed a plasma donor. He needed to undergo the convalescent plasma therapy to build his immunity to fight the virus. The need was urgent, for the patient had already spent over ten days on the ventilator. The plasma therapy uses the antibodies from the blood of a cured patient to treat a current patient.
Messages were put out on social media from Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp and we were soon directed to Doondh. com, a website designed by two Delhi boys to help people in exactly this kind of a situation. The idea behind this website is simple: It asks Covid-recovered patients to register if they are keen to become a donor. Patients requiring the plasma therapy too can log on with their details, and what the website does is to match the two depending on blood groups, locations, etc. As the web page explains: “We know what it feels like when a loved one is in the hospital with Covid-19. We know the gut-wrenching feeling you get when the docs tell you that plasma therapy is needed and the helplessness when they inform you that they don’t have enough in the hospital and you will have to find some.” Apparently one of the website’s founders Adwitiya Mal went through a similar experience sourcing plasma for his father-in-law, and it was after this that he got together with his childhood friend, Mukul Pahwa, to start this initiative. An investment of Rs 2.27 lakh got this website going mid-June.
Such gestures are truly to be applauded for they engulf each one of us as part of one family fighting Covid together. These two are not the only ones, for queries on WhatsApp brought back an entire list of donors that’s out on Instagram of Covid-recovered patients, and others helping organise donors working at individual levels. Gestures like these, in times such as this, reaffirm one’s faith in humanity, especially when one has also heard stories of how doctors, nurses, pilots and air hostesses were being banned from their colonies for fear of carrying the infection.
Those who want to donate plasma need to be at least 28 days (some hospitals are okay with 14 days and two negative tests) recovered before they can donate. Then came another catch. Even though as many as four donors came forward, their blood did not have the requisite antibodies. Informal chats with doctors claim that in order to donate plasma, the titer of antibodies present has to be high. And so not every recovered patient can be a donor. Moreover, there is a much more worrying research coming in from Beijing. A paper published by the Chongging Medical University on 19 June, now claims that there could be a sharp decline in the presence of antibodies as early as two to three months after recovery. Where does this leave the immunity-building theory?
Clearly this is a virus that will take all our combined grit, scientific temper and humanitarian outreach to combat.