While researchers cautioned against drawing conclusions from this provisional report, they remained hopeful.
“Going by the initial report of the RCT, the outcome of the plasma therapy appears promising,” said public health specialist Abhijit Chowdhury, a senior doctor who’s the head of hepatology at SSKM Hospital’s School of Digestive and Liver Diseases, who’s also on the state government’s panel of experts on Covid.
The provisional report — on the basis of the treatment outcomes on 10 patients who received plasma therapy — has been submitted to the West Bengal Health department as well as the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR).
Dipyaman Ganguly, the trial’s principal investigator, said the progress of these 10 patients was carefully matched against those who received standard therapy (the control group). “There was a discernibly better outcome, compared to standard therapy given to the control group. Even as the result so far has been encouraging, this report is based on 10 plasma transfusions, so the data is very preliminary. The final assessment will be done only after we achieve 40 transfusions,” said Ganguly, an associate professor at the Translational Research Unit of Excellence of Indian Institute of Chemical Biology.
“The trial is certainly helping a cluster of patients, while some patients are not responding to plasma therapy,” said infectious diseases specialist Yogiraj Ray, an assistant professor at the School of Tropical Medicine Kolkata, who’s a clinical investigator in the trial, and a member of the core Covid team at the ID Hospital. “As the trial progresses, we will be studying the immunological parameters of both categories of patients to analyse why it worked in some patients and why it did not in others.”
Ray said that finding the reasons — why some patients are responding to the treatment, while others are not — and correlating it with immunological parameters could play a key role in framing policy guidelines on plasma therapy. “If we can zero in on the cluster of patients who are responding well to the treatment, it could be helpful in guidelines regarding the category of patients who could benefit from the therapy,” he said.
The clinical trial on passive immunization using convalescent plasma is a joint initiative of the Council of Scientific & Industrial Research and the West Bengal government. Fully funded and supported by CSIR, the trial is taking place in the Covid ward of the ID Hospital.
Unlike other clinical therapy trials elsewhere in the country, which are on mildly affected patients, the trial in Kolkata is on adult patients who have both mild and moderate ARDS (acute respiratory disease syndrome). Patients who have received the therapy include those with co-morbidities like aplastic anaemia and kidney failure.