Dr Rakesh Maurya, lead scientist at Redcliffe Life Sciences, spoke to NewsX’s Managing Editor on the benefits of plasma therapy in fighting Covid-19.
Q. About 4,257 people have recovered in India. They now carry within them some kind of antibody to coronavirus. Of what use could this pool of population be?
A. The good news is not just the 4,257 that have recovered, but also 80% of the population globally who are showing mild symptoms. They can be potential donors for plasma therapy.
Q. Are you saying that people that are falling sick, but are showing mild symptoms, therefore means they have some natural immunity or natural resistance to this virus?
A. Yes, you got it right. They can be better donors, it is advisable. It is being seen globally in plasma therapy. If you have patients that have not taken any medicine or any drug and have a better natural immune response, they are better donors for plasma therapy.
Q. How is the plasma taken from a person who has recovered and has natural immunity?
A. Let’s go back to the science behind this. When an infection happens, our body has an immune response to target the virus, and then antibodies come up. When a person recovers, there is a technology called plasmapheresis, by which you can automatically separate plasma from the red blood cells. You can then infuse this plasma which is rich in antibodies into the patients who are severe or critically ill. We can also check the amount of antibodies in people, and find those donors have no other existing condition. This is very important. When we are selecting donors, testing has to be done as for any blood transfusion. HIV tests are conducted.
Q. Do blood types have to match in plasma therapy?
A. To some extent, yes. Success rates are very high with the blood groups O and B. Success rate of plasma therapy is lesser in blood group A. That is what clinical trials are for. We have to identify the doses at which to infuse the plasma.
Q. How much plasma can we produce? One or two units of blood per person is the recommended donation amount. So how much blood can a person give?
A. About 600 ml plasma, drawn from 1 or 2 units of blood, is sufficient for 3-5 doses. The good news is that these donors can donate every 14 days. Immunity can last for up to 3 to 4 months, maybe longer. You can use a single donor every 14 days, take 1-2 units of blood. Each donor, each donation can treat 3-5 patients. See the statistics of this. The reproductive rate of coronavirus is that it can infect two people, one person can infect two. But here one person can cure 3-5 people.
Q. There are studies going on here and globally on how effective plasma therapy can be. Unless we have a quantifiable scientific study, we can only guess and hope. How would it generally work? So, one person has recovered or has antibodies; you’ve taken a unit or 2 — about 600 ml of blood from them. You’ve then removed the RBC, so that’s why the plasma resembles whitish-yellow fluid. And then, after doing the HIV testing, etc, you distil the plasma and introduce the plasma into the donee’s bloodstream. What happens then?
A. The initial few days are for prophylaxis. When you inject the plasma, the patient’s body prepares the immune response. You will see some antibodies. Like when you inject a vaccine, you see fever rising. Just like that when you inject plasma, you will see prophylaxis, and then it moves into the therapy mode. The action may take anywhere between 4 to 12 days. In China, there were two trials done, and we saw the results being quite good, especially for critical patients that were on ventilators. Patients that were on ventilator were out of the ventilator within 5-7 days, which is a very good sign for this therapy. There is one more good part I would like to talk about. During the previous SARS outbreak, a large clinical trial was done using plasma therapy. The results were quite promising. This virus has a genome that is 80% similar.
Q. Once I get the plasma, which already has X antibodies in it. Is my body then able to replicate those antibodies? Or am I simply using those donated antibodies?
A. This is an innate response. You are supplementing your body with some antibodies from outside temporarily. The resistance of that patient is not that high against the virus. Yes, it can trigger to a certain extent the inane immunity of the patient. But right now, we can say that it is a temporary measure to reduce the amount of symptoms.
Q. So, the donated antibodies stay in the system for a few days?
A. Yes. They can stay for almost a month or two.
Q What are the risks with this kind of plasma therapy?
A. Risks are there for a certain section of patients. Those who are severely ill and have co-morbid conditions, like diabetes, hypertension, asthma or respiratory illness. Their immune response is already very weak. Even after infusing plasma, you may not see clinical signs of recovery. There is a fine line between a severe patient going into critical condition. If the therapy is administered at a time when the patient can be treated using this method, then the fine line has to be identified through these clinical trials. So that patients who have to be given this therapy can be identified at the right time.
Q. We have over 4,000 official recoveries. These are people who have tested negative twice, they are Covidfree now. Every day, that number is going up by 4oo-500. So potentially, as you mentioned, we potentially have 14,000-15,000 doses of plasma therapy, which incidentally would cover every single patient we have currently. So how do we encourage people who have recovered to come and donate the blood?
A. This is like a normal blood donation camp that we conduct. But we do have to sensitise people. The Indian population is very unique in terms of the response received. India’s well-placed in its battle against coronavirus. Nowhere else in the world is 20% of the population recovering. We have seen that it is usually 10- 11% or less than that. So, we have controlled the disease, we have a large number of donors. First, we have to screen them for all the antibodies. Once we have identified people who have sufficient antibodies in their system, only those can be prospective donors for us.
Q. Is the rapid kit the only way to screen people for antibodies? Or are there other ways of finding corona specific antibodies?
A. With a rapid point of care kit, you put a drop of blood and you know if the antibodies are there or not. Then there is an advanced version of antibody testing, where you can quantify the amount of IgG and IgM in the body. It’s a machine reader and a fairly simple process. We have to find people who have sufficient antibodies, because then you will use less amount of plasma per patient, and you can treat more patients.
Woman moves court after losing a Ludo game with dad
A 24-year-old woman has approached a family court after she lost a Ludo game to her father. The matter came up before family court counsellor Sarita Rajani in the Madhya Pradesh capital here. The daughter has said that she has been experiencing alienation from her father ever since the outcome in the board game.
“A 24-year-old young woman had come to us and said that when she was playing Ludo with her siblings and father, her father killed her tokens (goti) and she felt it was a breach of trust. She said she had trusted her father a lot and didn’t expect to be defeated by him,” said Rajani.
Rajani told reporters that the woman has told her she has lost respect for her father and even felt hesitation in calling him “father”. She said the father daughter relation was better earlier and only the board game defeat led to the crisis.
“I had four meetings with the woman and now some positive changes have started taking place,” said the counselor, adding: “Nowadays, children are unable to endure defeat which is why such cases come up. They need to learn to accept defeat which is as important as winning.”
During the lockdown period, the young woman, her two siblings and their father used to play the board game. After losing a game, the young woman developed resentment against her father, which increased over time. Rajani said the girl did not share her feelings with her family and decided to seek counselling about the matter.
She said the young woman is currently pursuing her studies, and the family lives in Bhopal city. The girl does not have a mother and she is the youngest of three siblings. “She has been counselled four times till now and the situation is improving. We will find a positive solution,” Rajani added.
Former Bihar police chief joins Nitish’s Party a month before Assembly elections
Ahead of the Assembly elections in Bihar, former Director-General of Police (DGP) Gupteshwar Pandey, who recently took voluntary retirement scheme (VRS), joined the JD-U on Sunday evening. He met Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on Saturday and later said that he has not taken any decision on contesting the elections. “I came here to meet Chief Minister Nitish Kumar and to thank him as he gave me absolute freedom to serve my duties as DGP. I have yet not taken any decision on contesting polls,” he had said. Later talking to the media, he said that CM Nitish Kumar called and asked him to join the JD-U.
Pandey quit as DGP after his request for voluntary retirement was approved on Tuesday by the Bihar government, which waived a three-month mandatory cooling-off period.
At a press conference held later at the party office, Pandey said he would be a “disciplined soldier of the party” and it is up to party how it utilises him. Asked about the buzz on his contesting elections, he said that too was the party’s call. “I was called by CM himself and asked to join. Whatever the party asks me to do, I will do. I don’t understand politics. I am a simple person who has spent his time working for the downtrodden section of society,” he told mediapersons.
On Saturday, the former DGP met Nitish Kumar and claimed that it was just a “thank you” session. “I discussed nothing political with the Chief Minister. I have worked with him for long and, after retirement, I just wanted to thank him for his support,” he had told reporters.
Pandey had earlier made headlines with his role in the Sushant Rajput case, and his comment questioning “aukat” (stature) of the actor’s friend Rhea Chakraborty for her remarks on Nitish Kumar.
Tejashwi’s big poll promise: Will fill 10L vacancies soon after coming to power
Rashtriya Janata Dal leader Tejashwi Yadav on Sunday promised that if his party returned to power after the Bihar Assembly elections, more than 10 lakh government vacancies would be filled within two months. He also accused the Nitish Kumar government of neglecting the youths of Bihar.
“As a result, job scarcity is at its highest in state. He is unable to fill 4.5 lakh vacancies in different departments. Besides, vacant posts of supporting staffs are even more,” the Leader of the Opposition in Bihar Assembly told the media here.
“If we calculate, over 10 lakh posts are lying vacant in various departments. Besides, opportunities to create jobs in industries and unorganised sectors are also possible,” Tejashwi said.
“As per the World Health Organisation (WHO), one doctor is required for every 1,000 people. Accordingly, 1.25 lakh doctors are required for 12 crore people of the state. Besides, around 2 lakh support staff like nurses, lab technicians and Group D employees are needed. As many as 50,000 posts of teachers and 75,000 Junior Engineers will be filled. In Bihar police, over 50,000 posts are vacant,” he added.
He also claimed that law and order in Bihar was at its worse. “When the RJD was part of the state government for 15 months, I was the Deputy CM… the crime graph had gone down during that period.”
Playing the regional card, Tejashwi said that he had earlier advocated the implementation of the domicile law in Bihar but the Chief Minister did not agree.
“Neighbouring Jharkhand has a domicile law; Madhya Pradesh has 100 per cent domicile law, and so do others. Why has he not implemented this law in Bihar? Does he have any explanation?”
The RJD leader also took a dig at Nitish Kumar’s claims on ‘sushasan’ (good governance), asking if he was denying that 60 scams had taken place during his rule. “Srijan scam, paddy scam, Saat Nischay scam etc took place… I want to ask Nitishji about the recovery of money from offenders. How much money did he manage to recover from scamsters? Does he have the guts to reveal the amount in public domain?” Tejashwi said.
With agency inputs
India would never go up when Bharat is going down
Our corporates must realise that nature abhors disequilibrium. There is a huge multitude of people
who have been left out of economic development. Why can’t they tie up their goals to the needs of these
people? Why can’t they give them work and therefore, money and therefore, create a further market?
We have a sound democratic system based on universal adult franchise. The Constitution was written by wise men and women who had experienced long years of colonisation and had incorporated various checks and balances to ensure that we were not subjugated again, either from outside or, more importantly, from forces within. The people were to elect their representatives who would formulate policies and rules for using the country’s resources for allround development. We, the people, would rule, never looking for a benign ruler. Our institutions were supposed to be forward-looking, framing policies with long-term goals, rather than in response to short-term pressures. Gradually, however, political expediency drove us to choose policies which would produce quick results and public interest was viewed as a hindrance. Thus, environmental concerns, due process and the fair allocation of natural resources came to be viewed as impediments to growth.
Over the years, there has been an abdication of responsibility by leaders and institutions. Knowingly or unknowingly, decision making was outsourced to interest groups, which increased their clout by backing the decision-makers. Today, advice on economic matters is sought from analysts linked to brokerages or hedge funds. IT professionals linked to technology firms advise us on IT and cyber security, and the same happens in every other field like health, education, agriculture, media, infra development and, I daresay, even foreign relations, national defence and strategic affairs. Consulting domain experts is fine — but letting them guide public policy? That is daft. It is so akin to ‘insider trading’ and ‘conflict of interest’ that it is a wonder we tolerate it. Every policy matter must go through a process of consultation amongst all stakeholders — in public view. Only the sunlight of the public gaze and the oxygen of open critical debate can wipe out the disease or the rot in our decision making.
The economic indicators we use are misleading. The most widely used indices hide the disparity in incomes and the gulf between the rich and the poor. The GDP and GNP were indicators developed to show down the performance of the Soviet bloc countries. Recall the words of President John F. Kennedy where he said, “GNP does not allow for the health of our children, the quality of their education, or the joy of their play. It does not include the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages; the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials. It measures neither our wit nor our courage; neither our wisdom nor our learning; neither our compassion nor our devotion to our country; it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.”
Observers are now talking about a ‘K-shaped’ postCovid recovery, meaning that while India will go up, Bharat will go down. The overall indices will, however, continue to show a growing GDP. What happened to the trickle-down theory or “the big wave lifting up the small boats”? Have we finally given up on this charade and come to accept that it is alright if the industrial worker, farmer, labourer, mid-level doctor, engineer and teacher keeps getting pushed down the economic ladder, while the rich, financial wizards, senior IT professionals and unscrupulous traders keep amassing wealth? It suits the top one percent to keep their eyes shut and ears closed to the pain of the lowermost ninety percent. But it doesn’t add up — what happened to the remaining nine percent? They are the educated middle class, supposed to be the conscience keepers of the nation. Over the last three decades, they have been lulled by unsavoury levels of consumerism. Their numbers equal the combined population of the UK and France or Germany. They are big enough to sustain an economy amongst them and are busy teaching themselves to remain disengaged from reality. They remain entertained, stay in gated colonies and, apart from ostentatious living and conspicuous consumption, invest their surplus incomes in overseas assets. Have you noticed the growing number of private jets at our airports? Did someone also say ‘colonisation of space’?
There was a time when corporate leaders were institution builders (there are still a few left). They had a long-term vision for their ventures, which dovetailed seamlessly into the nation’s public policy. They set up companies and nurtured them, looking after their employees, giving them a sense of belonging. Training, healthcare, education, recreation and other facilities were a part of a holistically growing enterprise. Today, most promoters are clear that their only motive is to make money — and make it as quickly as possible. There is no vision to create an abiding institution and no qualms in letting companies sink after money has been drawn out through questionable means. They raise companies for slaughter and hollowing them out is a business strategy.
The Industrial Revolution, which generated unprecedented economic progress, was the most effective antipoverty development in the world’s history. Unfortunately, however, over the last five to six decades, capitalism has been misused by those who claim to support it. Business people regularly petition governments for favourable treatment. They want subsidies, tax incentives and regulatory protection against competitors. Have you ever seen them lobby for unfettered competition and free markets? People professing to be probusiness are increasingly anti-free market, pro-cronyism — and therefore, anti-capitalism. These vested interests encourage patronage rather than reward for those who add value to the economy.
Our corporates must realise that nature abhors disequilibrium. The reality is staring at us. There is a huge multitude of people who have been left out of economic development. Why can’t they tie up their goals to the needs of these people? Why can’t they give them work and therefore, money and therefore, create a further market? Remember Henry Ford? In his 1926 book, Today and Tomorrow, Ford had made a challenging statement: “The owner, the employees, and the buying public are all one and the same, and unless an industry can so manage itself as to keep wages high and prices low it destroys itself, for otherwise it limits the number of its customers. One’s own employees ought to be one’s own best customers.” In 1914, when he introduced the assembly line mass production of the iconic Model Ts, Ford doubled the salary of his employees. “We increased the buying power of our own people, and they increased the buying power of other people, and so on and on,” Ford wrote. That is an enlightened vision!
The writer is an Indian civil servant and a former Chairman of the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC). The views expressed are personal. This is the second of a five-part series that will appear over a period of time.
No let up in attacks on religious places in Andhra, now ‘Nandi’ idol vandalized
There is no let-up in the incidents of vandalisation of idols of Hindu deities in Andhra Pradesh. There is already massive outrage over the burning of the religious Chariot at Antarvedi temple of West Godavari District. Now in another incident, unknown offenders have vandalized the ancient Nandi idol situated in Shiva Temple at Nangamangalam village.
The DSP of the area said, “The offenders stole the oldest Nandi idol with a motive of taking pearls, diamonds, Panchalohas, etc., inside the idol. We will nab all the culprits.”
With such incidents on the rise, police in Andhra Pradesh have been put on alert with all-night vigil. The government has asked the police to ensure security and safety of all places of worship in the state so that no incident of attack on religious places occurs.
The police have also asked the priests and religions heads across the state to be alert and vigilant. They all have been asked to get cameras fixed in the temples, churches and mosques.
In Prakasam and West Godavari districts, the policemen visit temples, churches and mosques, suggesting safety measures to the clergy as well as locals.
The department is keeping vigil 24 hours at all places of worship across Prakasam District. Prakasam Superintendent of Police (SP), Siddharth Kaushal, has warned hate mongers of strict action if any incident takes place. Meanwhile, attacks on temples have snowballed into a major issue in Andhra Pradesh, with the BJP raising it regularly. Recently, idols at Sri Venu Gopala Swamy Temple were destroyed, the iconic chariot at Sri Prasanna Venkateswara Swamy Temple at Appalayagunta was gutted in the fire.
On 6 September, an ancient chariot at Antarvedi Temple was found burnt in suspicious circumstances. Three silver lion statues at Kanaka Durga temple in Vijayawada were stolen. An idol of Lord Hanuman in Yeleswaram was vandalized.
PUNJAB GOVERNMENT’S BIG STEPS TO STUB OUT STUBBLE BURNING
In a series of measures to check stubble burning in the ongoing Kharif season, the Punjab government has appointed 8000 Nodal Officers in the paddy growing villages of the state, with 23,500 more machines being given to farmers for in-situ management of paddy straw.
Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh has also appealed to the farmers not to burn the crop residue, as it could aggravate Covid-19 conditions apart from leading to pollution spread. Seeking the support and cooperation of the farmers in preventing stubble burning amid the pandemic, he said that experts had warned it could have serious implications for the vulnerable people, already suffering from lung and other diseases.
Captain Amarinder said while he had been repeatedly following up with the Prime Minister for compensation to the farmers for defraying the cost on the management of paddy straw, the state was also taking various steps to educate the farmers about the problem. The state government has been seeking from the Centre Rs 100/quintal as compensation to enable the farmers to manage the paddy straw without burning it.
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