Maharashtra launches Project Platina, 'world's largest' plasma therapy trial for COVID-19 patients; all you need to know

FP Staff

The Maharashtra government launched Project Platina, touted to be the world's largest plasma therapy trial for treatment of coronavirus patients with severe symptoms.

It's a significant decision seeing Maharashtra is the worst-affected state by the COVID-19 pandemic and currently accounts for nearly 1.7 lakh confirmed patients.

What is Project Platina?

In the absence of a vaccine or drugs of proven effectiveness against the novel coronavirus, convalescent plasma therapy has emerged as a prominent treatment method. The project aims to boost the chances of survival of serious COVID-19 patients by providing free plasma therapy at 21 government-run centres in Maharashtra, including four in Mumbai.

"It will be world's largest trial cum treatment project, where in we intend to benefit and save around 500 lives of critically ill COVID-19 patients of Maharashtra. The donors are available in large numbers," the state government had said in a press statement.

Convalescent plasma therapy, which had earlier proved useful in combatting the SARS and MERS outbreaks, involves injecting a COVID-19 patient with the convalescent sera of recovered patients.

Antibodies in the blood of recovered patients can help fight the virus.

Who benefits from Project Platina

As per reports, the project is being launched in 13 centres initially with a goal to supply plasma to 500 patients. The goal is gradually increase  the number up to 5,000 by August.

Currently, the 500 patients will be given two doses of 200 ml of convalescent plasma taken from a recovered COVID-19 patient.

"This trial will help formulate definite treatment guidelines for the entire country in managing serious COVID-19 patients and thus be a milestone in turning a page in the pandemic," the state government said.

But that's not the only goal of the project. According to the government, the state also intends to take this study further and isolate monoclonal antibodies against COVID-19 from this plasma and study its structure and possibly produce it in an artificial form.

Maharashtra chief minister Uddhav Thackeray also said that the Platina trial will give robust data regarding the role of convalescent plasma in treatment of coronavirus patients.

The project also aims to create an an infrastructure of plasmapheresis in Maharashtra's medical colleges, helpful in treating dengue, snake bites and other medical emergencies.

Treatment starts today

The first dose of donated plasma will be injected into a COVID-19 patient on Tuesday at GMCH Nagpur. The project was implemented within 21 days, including processes like planning, getting clearances and completing dedicated COVID-19 plasma banks.

"We are expecting the result of this project by August, which is the new projected peak of COVID-19 in the country. We are all optimistic to save lives of 5,000 critical patients by then in the state," state coordinator and nodal officer for the project Dr Mohd Faizal said, according to Times of India.

The announcement of Project Platina's commencement came at the heels of Delhi starting a plasma bank. Delhi's health minister Satyendar Jain, who had been hospitalised for COVID-19 treatment and was also in the ICU, credited the plasma therapy for his recovery.

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