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Despite ICMR downplaying, doctors believe plasma therapy viable treatment option

A month ago, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) had also conducted a trial for the plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients. The trial results revealed that the therapy did not show much clinical benefit in reducing fatality risk caused due to the virus.

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New Delhi, Sep 12 : Ever since it was revealed that convalescent plasma (CP) therapy could help treat severely-ill COVID-19 patients, it was hailed as a magic bullet for people whose hopes were dashed in the absence of a vaccine or a proven drug. However, recent studies have raised questions about the efficacy of plasma therapy.

A few days ago, the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) published the result of a trial conducted across 39 hospitals in the country to determine if the plasma therapy reduces COVID-19 fatality or slows the progression of the disease. The study could not establish either scenario.

A month ago, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) had also conducted a trial for the plasma therapy on COVID-19 patients. The trial results revealed that the therapy did not show much clinical benefit in reducing fatality risk caused due to the virus.

While the subsequent research proves that plasma therapy’s efficacy is minimal in moderate and severe COVID-19 patients, the doctors still believe that it is proving helpful in the treatment.

Dr Pankaj Solanki, who runs Dharamveer Solanki Hospital, a COVID-19 facility in New Delhi, believes that one should not see plasma therapy as an alternative to the vaccine. He said that its efficacy is proven in treating patients suffering from infectious diseases like EBOLA. “The concept of convalescent plasma is simple. Patients who recover from an infectious disease often produce antibodies that can protect against later infections with the same viral infection. This immunity can be transferred by giving serum to those at risk of infection. It has been used for viral infections like EBOLA, MERS, Spanish Flu, SARS, and measles with some success,” he said.

“Now coming to the benefits, it is very well tolerated, reduces hospital stay time, and promotes the early discharge of patients. Till we do not have any definitive treatment or vaccine, I would recommend the continuous use of this therapy,” added Dr Solanki.

Dr Gyan Bharti, a pulmonologist at Columbia Asia Hospital in Ghaziabad, said that plasma therapy is the best supportive medium to generate against the virus in the absence of a vaccine. “There is a group of patients who benefited from plasma therapy. It is one of the best supportive ways to fight with COVID as it generates antibodies against the virus. Till the vaccine arrives, the plasma therapy remains the best medium to insert antibodies inside the body of an infected person,” he said.

“A recent ICMR study revealed no benefit of Convalescent Plasma therapy in COVID patients who are moderate to severely ill. However, neither we have any definite treatment nor a vaccine for COVID. In such a situation, each medication, whether it is Fabipiravir, Tocilizumab, Remdesivir, or Convalescent Plasma Therapy, has a different response on a different patient,” Dr Bharti added.

Meanwhile, Dr Aashish Chaudhry, Managing Director of Aakash Healthcare Super-speciality Hospital in New Delhi, said that plasma therapy has proven to be a potential modality for treatment for COVID. However, he also said that more studies would be required to come to any conclusion.

“COVID-19 is a new disease, and all efforts and treatment are directed for patient improvement, plasma therapy is one potential modality of treatment, but more scientific evidence and multicentric trials are still needed before we can completely write off the efficacy of plasma therapy in managing COVID-19,” added Dr Chaudhry.

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Plasma Therapy May Be Removed From Covid Treatment Guideline

At a Health Ministry briefing, Indian Council Of Medical Research chief Dr Balram Bhargava said plasma therapy may be removed from national guideline on coronavirus treatment.

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Plasma therapy

New Delhi: Convalescent plasma therapy may be removed from the national guideline on treatment of coronavirus, chief of India’s top medical research body ICMR Dr Balram Bhargava said at a Health Ministry briefing today.

“We have had discussions it (use of plasma therapy) at the national taskforce-level… more or less we are reaching towards that,” ICMR Director General Dr Balram said in response to a question on continued use of plasma therapy (CPT) despite an ICMR trial showing it does not reduce mortality or slow the progression of COVID-19.

“The world’s largest trial on plasma therapy was done in India on 464 patients in 39 hospitals with more than 350 authors. This paper has been accepted for inclusion in the British Medical Journal and it will soon appear as a full paper on the role of plasma therapy on COVID-19,” he said.

Reiterating that there was no scope of “letting our guard down” even though the coronavirus peak has passed in India and Covid may “almost end by February”, Union Health Secretary Rajesh Bhushan said “experts have said cases will spike again if precautions are not followed”.

“All precautions should continue even when we have a vaccine”, Dr Balram said indicating that the fight against COVID-19 would have to be fought for a long time even after India starts inoculating its 1.3 billion-strong population.

Health Minister Harsh Vardhan had recently said India would have a coronavirus vaccine early next year, and there were several front-runners.

“We have come up with a Draft Prioritisation Programme (for vaccination)…tried to match numbers under it to the number of doses that would become available from tentatively January to July. If present trials proceed according to plan then the number of doses will be sufficient to immunize those on priority list,” the Health Secretary Bhushan said.

He added that it will not be mandatory to “have a digital health ID” to get inoculated, a day after PM Narendra Modi said such IDs would be given to all citizens.

“Our current National Digital Health Mission does not have digital IDs for everyone. Multiple types of IDs will be valid for getting vaccinated,” he said.

Questioned about efforts to contain Covid in Bihar, where huge political rallies are being held Bihar without social distancing in contravention of government rules, Mr Bhushan said it was a “political matter”.

“We are regularly sending central teams. They will monitor the situation and ensure that infection does not spread and (Covid safety) rules are followed,” he said.

Mr Bhushan further shared data on the increase in number of ICU and ventilator beds since April. While ICU beds in India increased from 23,815 to 77,316, ventilator beds increased from 11,993 to 39,527.

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Daily mouthwash may inactivate human coronaviruses: Study

Recently, a study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that Sars-Cov-2 viruses can be “inactivated” using commercially available mouthwashes.

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In a fight against the novel coronavirus, scientists have found that certain oral antiseptics and mouthwashes may have the ability to inactivate human coronaviruses.

The results, published in the Journal of Medical Virology, indicate that some of these products might be useful for reducing the amount of virus in the mouth after infection and may help to reduce the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

“While we wait for a vaccine to be developed, methods to reduce transmission are needed. The products we tested are readily available and often already a part of people’s daily routines,” said study researcher Craig Meyers from the Penn State University in the US.

During the study, the research team tested several oral and nasopharyngeal rinses in a laboratory setting for their ability to inactivate human coronaviruses, which are similar in structure to SARS-CoV-2.

The products evaluated include a one per cent solution of baby shampoo, peroxide sore-mouth cleansers, and mouthwashes.

The researchers found that several of the nasal and oral rinses had a strong ability to neutralize human coronavirus, which suggests that these products may have the potential to reduce the amount of virus spread by people who are COVID-19-positive.

They used a test to replicate the interaction of the virus in the nasal and oral cavities with the rinses and mouthwashes.

They treated solutions containing a strain of human coronavirus, which served as a readily available and genetically similar alternative for SARS-CoV-2, with the baby shampoo solutions, various peroxide antiseptic rinses and various brands of mouthwash.

They allowed the solutions to interact with the virus for 30 seconds, one minute and two minutes, before diluting the solutions to prevent further virus inactivation.

According to Meyers, the outer envelopes of the human coronavirus tested and SARS-CoV-2 are genetically similar so the research team hypothesizes that a similar amount of SARS-CoV-2 may be inactivated upon exposure to the solution.

To measure how much virus was inactivated, the researchers placed the diluted solutions in contact with cultured human cells.

They counted how many cells remained alive after a few days of exposure to the viral solution and used that number to calculate the amount of human coronavirus that was inactivated as a result of exposure to the mouthwash or oral rinse that was tested.

The one per cent baby shampoo solution, which is often used by head and neck doctors to rinse the sinuses, inactivated greater than 99.9 per cent of human coronavirus after a two-minute contact time.

Several of the mouthwash and gargle products also were effective at inactivating the infectious virus.

Many inactivated greater than 99.9 per cent of the virus after only 30 seconds of contact time and some inactivated 99.99 per cent of the virus after 30 seconds.

The results with mouthwashes are promising and add to the findings of a study showing that certain types of oral rinses could inactivate SARS-CoV-2 in similar experimental conditions, the study noted.

Recently, a study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, found that Sars-Cov-2 viruses can be “inactivated” using commercially available mouthwashes.

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India at forefront of covid-19 vaccine development: PM Modi

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Narendra Modi

New Delhi, Oct 19 : India is now at the forefront of vaccine development for Covid-19, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said on Monday while virtually addressing the ‘Grand Challenges’ annual meeting.

The assertion came just 48 hours after the Prime Minister chaired a meeting to review India’s vaccine delivery, distribution and administration process.

Earlier, the Centre had said that three vaccines are in advanced stages of development in India, out of which 2 are in Phase II and one is in Phase III.

During his address on Monday, Modi said that India has one of the highest recovery rates at 88 per cent.

“This happened because India was one of the first countries to adopt a flexible lockdown,” he said.

Modi added that India is seeing a decline in the number of daily cases.

India’s Covid tally on Monday crossed the 75 lakh-mark to 75,50,273 cases. Out of these, 7,72,055 are currently active, 66,63,608 have been discharged, while 1,14,610 people have succumbed to the virus.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister heaped praises on India’s scientific fraternity and institutions.

“They have been India’s biggest assets, especially during the last few months. Be it containment or the issue of capacity building, they have achieved wonders,” the Prime Minister said.

He pointed out that the future will be shaped by societies which will choose to invest in science and innovation. However, he warned, “This cannot be attained in a short-sighted way. Investment in science and innovation needs to take place well in advance. Only then can we reap the benefits at the right time.”

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