BCG and plasma therapy—New weapons in the fight against COVID-19

COVID-19 Health National

Maharashtra seeking for approvals from Center and  Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) to use BCG and plasma therapy for COVID-19 treatment.

By Surbhi Shah

Mumbai: The mounting number of COVID-19 cases in Maharashtra has led the Chief Minister to seek possible treatment to normalise the situation in the economic capital as early as possible. For this, the CM has asked the centre for permission to use plasma therapy and BCG vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus.

While addressing the state on April 14, Maharashtra Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray said that the state has asked the centre for permission to use plasma treatment and BCG vaccine for coronavirus treatment. “In Maharashtra, till now, we have not let the virus enter in almost 10 zillas and we will not let it happen in future also…and for the rest of Maharashtra we have to destroy the virus..,” Thackeray said.

Maharashtra has the highest number of Coronavirus cases in India with 2,687 confirmed cases, 259 recovered cases and 178 deaths so far.

BCG Vaccine

Bacille Calmette-Guérin (BCG) is the vaccine is used against tuberculosis. For a long time now, the researchers have been looking at the correlation of BCG vaccine and COVID-19.

Akiko Iwasaki, a professor of immunology and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, had recently tweeted about the correlation between the BCG vaccine and COVID-19.

Referring to the study quoted by Iwasaki, the speed of virus spread in the countries having a BCG vaccination program, was less, especially among the younger citizens.

Vaccines are generally used to raise the immune system’s response against a specific pathogen. Research studies conducted by Peter Aaby and Christine Benn, Danish researchers, shows that the BCG vaccine may increase the immune system’s ability to fight against the pathogens other than that of Tuberculosis.

A study published in National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) shows that the countries with BCG immunization program would contain the spread of the Coronavirus better than those who did not have or have ceased the BCG vaccination programs.

On the contrary, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said in its brief that in the absence of the evidence that BCG can protect the people against coronavirus, they do not recommend using the vaccine.

Plasma Therapy

Along with the BCG vaccine, CM Thackeray has also asked for the permission to use plasma therapy.

In this therapy, the blood from the recovered person of the particular disease is taken and it is screened for antibodies for the infected virus.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is conducting clinical trials of the use of plasma therapy to treat the Covid-19 patients.

“Therapeutic Plasma Exchange (TPE) is an experimental procedure for critically ill COVID-19 patients. Hospitals and Institutions planning to provide this modality of treatment should do so in a clinical trial with protocols which are cleared by the Institutional Ethics Committee,” said the call letter issued by the ICMR.

Before Maharashtra, Kerala had also sought for plasma therapy for treating the patients after getting approval from the Drug Controller of India.


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