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Convalescent plasma therapy useful in treating COVID-19

Therapy being applied in many scientific areas of therapeutic apheresis in Turkey, says head of World Apheresis Association

Duygu Yener  | 09.04.2020 - Update : 09.04.2020
Convalescent plasma therapy useful in treating COVID-19


Apheresis therapy can be widely beneficial in treating patients with the novel coronavirus, the president of the World Apheresis Association said Wednesday. 

Speaking on convalescent plasma therapy, Fevzi Altuntas said this therapy is being successfully applied in many scientific areas of therapeutic apheresis in Turkey.

What is apheresis?

Apheresis is a science that deals with the processing of blood outside of the body to cure a disease and obtaining the desired blood component or stem cell or cellular therapy products, Altuntas said.

Apheresis is a treatment method that has been successfully applied in treating a wide range of diseases that concern a lot of disciplines such as blood diseases, nephrology, neurology, intensive care, emergency medicine, microbiology and clinical infection, he said.

Stressing that apheresis therapy is not applied only for plasma production in patients with the coronavirus, he said in the pandemic, apheresis is also applied for removal of the virus, the released cytokines and chemicals, replacing the coagulation proteins consumed and the collection of plasma of people who have recovered from COVID-19 disease for transfer.

Turkey started applying convalescent plasma therapy faster than many developed countries, he said.

"This situation sums up the success that our country has reached in the field of apheresis science."

What is convalescent plasma therapy?

This passive antibody therapy is aimed at transferring antibodies to a person for the purpose of protecting and treating against disease, Altuntas underlined.

The aim of the therapy is to take antibodies from the blood of a person who has recovered from a virus and transfer them to a sick person, he said.

In this way, the virus in the patient is expected to be deactivated.

Process of therapy

Commenting on the process of therapy, Altuntas said all donors must be diagnosed with COVID-19.

Donors should have no complaints and feel good for at least 14 days after recovery, he said, stressing that legally, people between the ages of 18-60 can be donors.

He went on to say that immunized plasmas are collected from individuals who meet these criteria and stored in blood banks.

Product collection in apheresis center

Speaking on how to collect products at an apheresis center, Altuntas said the apheresis process will take an average of 60-80 minutes. Approximately 200-600 cc of plasma will be collected with apheresis devices.

Also, the donor will be kept under surveillance for 15 minutes after the transaction is completed, he said, adding an appointment for a new plasma donation will be made again with the consent of the donor.

What will happen to collected products?

Touching on the process after collecting the products, Altuntas said barcoding will be done by the Turkish Red Crescent, also known as Kizilay, for the collected products.

Barcoded products will be stored at minus 18-25 degrees or below in a separate storage cabinet, he said, adding convalescent plasma will be transplanted to severe and critical COVID-19 patients.

Finally, 200-400 ml of convalescent plasma will be transplanted to selected patients, he said.

"I invite everyone recovering from this disease to become a volunteer plasma donor. This is not only a social responsibility but a national duty.

“Our examples of social solidarity such as plasma donation are crucial to overcoming this fight together healthfully," he added.

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