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‘India is well-placed in its battle against corona’

Rishabh Gulati

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‘India is well-placed in its battle against corona’

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.

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PUNJAB AGRICULTURE MINISTER CALLS ON MANDAVIYA ON DAP CRISIS

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On the intervention of Punjab`s Minister for Agriculture, Farmers` Welfare and Food Processing Randeep Singh Nabha on DAP shortage crisis, Union Minister for Chemicals & Fertilizers Mansukh Mandaviya on Tuesday assured to supply 10 rakes of DAP (Diammonium Phosphate), 5 rakes of NPK (Complex Fertilizer) and 2 of SSP (Single Super Phosphate) within three to four days to Punjab. Considering Punjab`s demand Union Minister also assured for adequate supply of Urea to Punjab in the coming November and December.

Punjab Agriculture Minister, who called upon Mandaviya at latter`s office here, informed the Union Minister that the total requirement of DAP for rabi crops is 5.50 lakh MT, out of which 4.80 lakh MT is required during October & November for timely sowing of wheat crop. DAP is an essential input for ensuring optimum productivity of wheat, which is sown on an area of about 35.00 lakh hectares in Punjab.

“We apprised the Union Minister that the Punjab, known as food bowl of the nation, is being allocated much lesser quantity of DAP in comparison to Uttar Pradesh and Haryana. We have been writing the union government for last six months on this sensitive issue. We also informed the Union Minister that shortage of DAP on the onset of Rabi season can lead farmers` unrest“ said Nabha expressing hope that the Union government would stand by its commitment of supplying DAP.

After the meeting, Nabha revealed that Union Minister has said that the shortage of DAP was due to non-availability of the fertilizers in the international market and the union government would ensure adequate supply of DAP to Punjab.

“During the meeting we also demanded that the Union Government must repeal the farm laws against which the farmers are protesting for last one year. The farmers are feeling insecure as they argue that with these farmer laws the big Corporate would get away their farm lands,” said Nabha.

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BJP MP wants more central forces’ deployment for West Bengal bypolls

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Emphasising the need for free and fair polling in the upcoming by-elections, BJP MP Arjun Singh on Tuesday urged Chief Election Officer of the state to allot more security personnel for bypolls in four constituencies, which is scheduled to be held on October 30.

In the letter, Arjun Singh said, “As you are aware the spate of post-poll violence, which started from the day of counting after the General Election still continues.

The High court also took cognizance of the situation and ordered a CBI probe in the case.” He also mentioned that the “TMC goons” attacked the party candidates – Joy Saha from Khardah and Ashok Mandal from Dinhata – while they were doing door-to-door campaign in their respective constituencies.

Requesting to deploy more security personnel in the constituencies, Singh wrote, “In this context, we repeat our request made earlier for immediate allotment of Central Security cover for our candidates as we have no reliance on the West Bengal Police.”

The MP requested the CEO to deploy 30 companies of CAPF per constituency to ensure free and fair polls on October 30.

Requesting to deploy more security personnel in the constituencies, Singh wrote, “In this context, we repeat our request made earlier for immediate allotment of Central Security cover for our candidates as we have no reliance on the West Bengal Police.”

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SUKHBIR SINGH BADAL NAMES 4 MORE PARTY CANDIDATES FOR 2022 POLLS

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The Shiromani Akali Dal President Sukhbir Singh Badal on Tuesday announced 4 more candidates of the party for coming 2022 Assembly election. SAD Senior Vice President Dr Daljit Singh Cheema disclosed that Baldev Singh Mann will be party candidate from Sunam, Bhai Gobind Singh Longowal from Lehra, Harpal Juneja from Patiala Urban & Hardev Singh Megh (Gobindgarh) from Balluana assembly seat. He said that with this announcement, now the party has so far announced 74 candidates.

Meanwhile, Punjab assembly speaker Rana K P Singh has accepted the resignation of MLA Bholath, Sukhpal Singh Khaira on Tuesday. Due to this Bholath assembly constituency has been declared vacant according to a notification of Punjab assembly. On this Khaira said, “I had resigned as MLA on 3rd June before joining Congress. Thereafter the Speaker asked me to submit resignation in a proper format , which I did today in person. My resignation has been accepted.” It may be noted that Khaira had won from Bholath in 2017 assembly election as AAP candidate and recently joined Congress.

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SWASTH HARYANA APP TO CUT LONG QUEUES AT HOSPITALS

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The Haryana government has launched a string of new applications have been launched by the government recently. Several new applications were brought into existence for the better and fair administration as well as for the benefits of commoners.

In this series, a new app namely Swasth Haryana by Anil Vij, state Health Minister for needy people visiting the government health institutions for the treatment. New app will get rid of long queues as they can get themselves registered on the app before going to hospitals. Vij said: “Through this app, patients can get themselves registered at any Civil Hospital of the State and the app is also available on Google Play Store.”

Further, he said that the government is consistently working to contain the spread of Covid and to augment it further, the Haryana State Health Systems Resource Centre (HSHRC) has developed “Swasth Haryana’’. Mobile app. It is pertinent to mention that it is being considered a milestone as the premier health institute like PGIMER, Chandigarh is providing the facility to the local as well the patients coming from neighbouring states.

Vij added that now the patients can get themselves registered in advance before going to the hospital through this app. while sitting at home and thus the rush of people at the State Hospitals can be managed in a systematic manner. He stated that with this app, the patient can directly go to the specialist doctor and no longer does he need to stand in long queues.

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PUNJAB DY CM SMELLS CONSPIRACY IN SINGHU LYNCHING, PROMISES JUSTICE

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Punjab Deputy Chief Minister Sukhjinder Singh Randhawa on Tuesday said that there appeared to be a deep rooted conspiracy to defame the farmers’ stir. Referring to the recent incident of lynching of a SC labourer from Tarn Taran, and latest disclosures in media, the Deputy Chief Minister, who also heads the Home Department, promised complete justice saying the government will reach to the bottom of the case and identify and expose as who were the conspirators behind the incident.

Randhawa said, in view of the recent disclosures about one of the Nihang leaders having already been in touch with the Union Minister for Agriculture NS Tomar in particular, the lynching incident has now taken an entirely different turn. The same Nihang leader is now defending the main accused for the killing of Lakhbir Singh, he added.

“Lakhbir Singh, the victim belonged to village Cheema Kalan and was very poor. We need to find out as who lured him to Singhu border and who paid for his travel as he could not even afford his meals”, the Deputy Chief Minister observed, while adding that he had instructed the local administration to find out under what circumstances he was taken away from his home in Cheema Kalan village to Singhu border.

Randhawa said, in view of the recent photographic evidence available, the Nihang leader will also need to explain as in what capacity he had met the union agriculture minister NS Tomar and whether he was mandated to do so by the farmers’ organisations spearheading the campaign against three farm laws.

The Deputy Chief Minister said, given the important place the Nihang leader was camping at and staging dharna at Singhu Border, it was mandatory on his part to keep the farmers’ unions informed and updated about his meetings with the union minister. “This has raised genuine doubts and suspicion among the minds of people which will need to be cleared and the Punjab government will do everything to reach to the root of the conspiracy and expose and punish the culprits,” he promised.

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‘Centre’s move to extend BSF jurisdiction will harm Punjab’s economy’

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Standing at the front against the Union Government’s decision to extend BSF jurisdiction in Punjab, Cabinet Minister Rana Gurjeet Singh, on Tuesday said that the border state has been ignored while granting special package of incentives to neighboring states like Himachal Pradesh for capital investment subsidy and now the extension of BSF Jurisdiction from 15 km to 50 km is yet another jolt to Punjab. It has created a panic and a sense of insecurity in investors, he added saying that how the investor shall go to the 25,000 sq. km border belt (out of a total of 50,000) which is under the jurisdiction of the Security Force Rana asked. Even the adjoining industrial units of Home Grown Industries would consider shifting to safer places, Rana said.

Lashing out at the Modi Government he said that while it was giving step-motherly treatment to the Punjab, on the other side, jurisdiction has been cut short by 20 km in 5 north eastern states of Manipur, Mizoram, Tripura, Nagaland and Meghalaya where it has had jurisdiction of 80 km. In Gujarat, it has been curtailed from 80 to 50. There should be a level playground and such imbalance would even hit trade, commerce and industry in the land-locked states, besides creating tiffs between central and state agencies, Rana said.

Agriculture sector especially in the Border area is already under stress and extension of the BSF jurisdiction will further add to their difficulties, said the Cabinet Minister. Urging the union government to make the agriculture sector sustainable there, liberal incentives need to be given, he said. He suggested that 90% subsidies should be given to the farmers of the Border Area under the central schemes for drip irrigation system.

Rana said there was a dire need to reconsider the jurisdiction issue in concurrence with the state and grant special incentives at par with North Eastern States. The first step in this direction would be to constitute a Western Border States Advisory Council having Chief Ministers/Governor of the states as members under the Chairmanship of Union Home Minister on the pattern of North East Council to deliberate the issue of creating of a dedicated Corpus Fund pooled through a mandatory contribution from all the Union Ministries in the Union Budget, he added.

The Cabinet Minister assured that he would request Punjab Chief Minister Charanjit Singh Channi to convene a one day session of the Vidhan Sabha to pass a resolution and to take up the matter with the Union Government to reconsider the BSF jurisdiction extension and lead a delegation of all the stakeholders for a meeting with Prime Minister Modi.

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