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Plasma Therapy in Health Insurance
- Author :
- TATA AIG Team
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To battle the surprising emergence of COVID-19, several treatment options were being explored. On the one hand, individuals were asked to maintain stringent hygiene protocols, whereas, on the other, scientists and researchers worked tirelessly to explore newer treatment avenues. The illness renewed the importance of caring for one’s health with exercise, diet, nutritional supplements, and comprehensive health insurance for financial protection from health-related expenses.
Amongst the various treatment options, convalescent plasma is perhaps the oldest treatment that was being tested. Essentially, plasma therapy in COVID involves using the blood plasma from individuals who have recovered from COVID-19 and infusing the same in patients who are currently suffering from the illness. Let us understand what plasma therapy is and its genesis, along with the benefits and risks involved.
Understanding Convalescent Plasma Therapy
Plasma is the component of blood that is entirely devoid of blood cells but retains the constituents of whole blood in suspension. It was over a century ago when Emil Behring was awarded the first Nobel Prize for physiology and medicine for his work that showcased how plasma transfusion could help in the treatment of diphtheria.
We know today that the primary element in plasma that helps treat infections is antibodies. Antibodies are proteins that are highly specifically designed by our body to destroy the invading virus. Considering this, it becomes easier to understand why COVID plasma treatment was being explored. Reassuringly, convalescent plasma therapy had been trialled in previous coronavirus outbreaks, and observational studies in the first Sars epidemic in 2003 reported improvement in the health of the patients upon receiving the convalescent plasma transfusion.
In the present scenario, for COVID plasma therapy, the antibodies from a recovered individual are used to treat the patients who are critically affected by the COVID-19 virus. The plasma therapy for COVID-19 can also be used to immunise frontline workers who are at the highest risk of contracting the virus.
The concept of COVID plasma therapy emerges from the understanding that the blood of the individual who has recovered from COVID-19 will comprise the specific antibodies that have the ability to fight the novel coronavirus. Moreover, platelet-rich plasma has also been experimented with for the treatment of hair loss in patients post-COVID. Individuals who participated in the study claimed that platelet-rich plasma therapy was “very effective” in addressing their concerns. While the aforementioned sounds promising, it is important to note that according to researchers, plasma therapy can only be considered a preventative measure and not a treatment for COVID-19.
How Does Convalescent Plasma Therapy Work?
For the COVID plasma treatment, the antibodies that are developed in an infected patient are used to treat other patients. These antibodies are the immune system’s natural response to attack and defeat foreign pathogens, in our case, the novel coronavirus.
Once a patient recovers from the illness, they can donate their blood so that other patients can also recover with the help of their antibodies. Prior to transfusion, the blood is tested for other illness-causing agents such as HIV, Hepatitis, etc. Once the blood is considered safe, the plasma is extracted from it and infused into the body of the patient who is receiving the treatment.
What are the Risks Involved with Convalescent Plasma Therapy?
While it is not the first time that convalescent plasma therapy has been tested, concerns about its safety are still prevalent. It is important to be aware of the risks involved before considering going for plasma therapy in COVID treatment:
The Transfer of Blood Substances: With blood transfusion, there is an inadvertent risk of transmission of diverse organisms such as bacteria, parasites, viruses, etc. This can negatively affect the health of the patient. It is risky when their immune system is already down in trying to fight off the existing virus. Thankfully, however, the risk of infections can be minimised when the donor is screened for infections.
Infection May Intensify: For some patients, the plasma therapy may not work and instead conversely strengthen the infection, thereby worsening the condition of the patient.
Impact on the Immune System: A theoretical risk with plasma transfusion is that it might prevent the immune system of one's own body from appropriately responding and forming antibodies.
Limitations with the Elderly: Senior people have weakened lungs and hearts (with greater susceptibility to COVID-19), and their bodies may not tolerate the reception of such a large volume of plasma, which may cause complications.
Past Experiments with Plasma Therapy
The recent plasma therapy for COVID-19 is not new experimentation. There have been several studies in the past that have displayed how receiving convalescent plasma has improved the health of patients without any serious implications.
In 2014, the WHO recommended the use of convalescent plasma therapy to treat the Ebola virus
The use of convalescent plasma was established with a protocol in 2015 for patients infected with MERS (also caused by a coronavirus
In the 1918 outbreak of the Spanish flu pandemic, plasma therapy was experimentally used
To treat the H1N1 infection in 2009, this therapy was employed for treatment
In addition to the above-mentioned, convalescent plasma therapy has also been utilised as a treatment measure at the time of the SARS outbreak, polio, HIV, and mumps.
Before We Conclude
In a time of rising health concerns, a medical insurance plan is an indispensable inclusion for efficient financial planning. It has been observed that millions of Indian households spend more on their healthcare than their annual per capita consumption. In addition to providing health coverage, health insurance also eliminates the worry of soaring hospital expenses and treatment bills.
Besides, the benefits of health insurance extend beyond taking care of simply the hospitalisation expenses, such as renting the ICU room and pre-hospitalisation costs. Some health insurance policies even offer post-hospitalisation care for a specific period. So, a comprehensive medical insurance plan is a saving grace to help meet the expensive treatment costs.
If you think that medical insurance plans are important and you should get one, visit Tata AIG’s website. We are one of India’s leading insurance providers, offering a host of medical insurance plans. You can compare health insurance plans on Tata AIG to see the one that suits your needs best.
The continued developments in plasma therapy show hope of gradually perfecting it. However, since the therapy is still in its developmental phase, researchers caution it from being considered an effective treatment. Yet, at the onset of the pandemic, when there were no vaccines available, convalescent plasma revealed itself as a prompt solution that could be deployed easily.
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