To tackle the challenge of an inadequate number of hospitals beds and other equipment like ventilators to treat critically ill Coronavirus (Covid-19) patients in India, a group of international scientists and an Indian company are trying to launch a novel treatment protocol, which can help patients recover and be out of the hospital in as little as two days.

The treatment protocol is the result of a joint initiative by scientists who are a part of the European Medical Association (EMA), along with Redcliffe Lifesciences, an Indian molecular diagnostics company, and Sapio Analytics, a government advisory firm that uses data and artificial intelligence to aid policy decision-making.

This treatment is a combination of plasma treatment--which is already being spoken of as a viable and effective defence for those infected by the Coronavirus--and adjuvant negative ion therapy. In a nutshell, the idea follows a two-step approach. First, the plasma of a patient with naturally strong immunity to Covid-19 (people who recover from the virus without any medication, using only naturally occurring antibodies) is injected into another patient, helping the rapid development of antibodies to fight the virus. Second, the patient is exposed to negative ions (electrically charged molecules in the air) through a proprietary ioniser device; these ions can help kill the virus, as well as increase the oxygen available to red blood cells, thereby bolstering the human body’s immune response to Covid-19.

The people involved in this project include Dr. Ahmad Abulaziz AlJaziri, inventor of the ioniser device; Dr. Amina Ather, and Dr. Nayak S.V., the lead research and clinical leaders on this project under the umbrella of the EMA. Redcliffe is the exclusive commercial and clinical partner for the treatment in India and Sapio Analytics has been working with various state governments across India to assist them with data-backed decision-making support systems for combating the pandemic.

“This additional therapy, along with plasma therapy, can lead to faster clinical outcomes in the treatment of Covid-19, especially in the case of critical patients,” says Rakesh Maurya, head of Redcliffe Lifesciences.

During a virtual press conference held on Monday, Ather stated that in trials on over 3,000 patients in China and Germany, patients were seen to recover in 36-48 hours. With regular medication and hospitalisation, Covid-19 patients can take anywhere between 14 days to a month to recover. Plasma therapy with adjuvant negative ion therapy was 10 times more effective than conventional plasma therapy, the innovators of the treatment said. The group is in the process of seeking approvals from the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) and other authorities to start clinical trials of this treatment in India. On April 18, the Drug Controller General of India gave its nod to an ICMR proposal seeking permission to conduct clinical trials to check the efficacy of plasma therapy for treating Covid-19.

If the combination of plasma therapy and negative ion treatment is found to be successful in India, it can potentially lead to a great burden getting lifted from the country’s healthcare system. Critical patients can then get cured and vacate hospital beds faster, leading to more people getting timely treatment. This is all the more important since any potential vaccine or drug to fight the virus might take around a year to be commercially available.

However, there are certain limitations to the new treatment protocol as well. According to AlJaziri, the treatment appears to work better on patients in the O+, A+, and O- blood groups, and wasn’t that successful for patients with B+ blood type. Also, this treatment isn’t recommended for pregnant patients, or those with pacemakers installed. Also, the use of the ioniser can lead to dehydration in patients, and they are advised to rehydrate themselves after an ioniser session that can last between three and four hours.

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