Among the treatments for COVID-19 patients, some doctors have resorted to an existing method of fighting infectious diseases — plasma transfusions.
Plasma is a component of blood. The simple process involves extracting the blood containing the antibodies of the infection the donor has recovered from. Once the plasma is separated from the blood, doctors administer it to people infected with the same virus, in this case, COVID-19.
Click here to read more about this process.
To aid doctors in this treatment by connecting donors with potential receivers, a team of students and doctors have created an app — COPAL-19.
The team comprises of IIT-Delhi students, Kaashika Prajaapat and Tushar Chaudhary along with Tanay Aggarwal, a student of Maharaj Surajmal Institute of Technology, New Delhi, and Dr Abhinav Singh Verma and Dr Varidh Katiyar of AIIMS.
Collaborating for a Noble Cause
In a conversation with The Better India (TBI), Kaashika says, “I was independently working on a medical facility tracker app to make the number of beds, ventilators and other facilities available in hospitals transparent. That was the initial idea for the app which later morphed into becoming a plasma bank app.”
An incident which occurred with Dr Abhinav Singh Verma was the primary reason why the team focussed on leveraging technology to connect plasma donors with potential receivers.
“A senior doctor at AIIMS and Dr Verma’s colleague was in need of plasma and it took him almost 12 hours to find the plasma donor. That was when Dr Verma felt the need to develop an app to help bridge the gap,” informs Kaashika.
The team felt that the delay happened not due to the lack of donors but because of lack of information. “We wanted to provide a platform that brings donors and patients in need together. This is why we came up with COPAL-19,” says Kaashika.
How Does the COPAL-19 App Work?
The app in its current form is available only on the android device. However, it has also been converted into a web portal, which allows the user to log into the online portal.
The app is for two categories of people – donors, who can register themselves and the treating physician/hospital, which can access the data. Once the donor registers, they will have to enter in all their details which include:
2. Contact details (e-mail, phone number)
3. Place of residence
4. Upload a copy of your diagnosis
5. Mention if you were symptomatic/asymptomatic
6. Last date on which you were symptomatic
“According to the guidelines, a person is eligible to donate plasma fourteen days after they have tested negative for COVID-19 or twenty-eight days after the patient was last symptomatic,” shares Kaashika.
A donor is also eligible to donate once every fourteen days.
What Follows after the Registration Process?
A registered potential donor receives a message via whatsapp, telegram, e-mail, or SMS once the app finds a match. The donors get all the details like the hospital to reach to donate plasma. In case the donor is unable to reach the place, they can decline and the message will be sent to another donor in the vicinity.
This process continues until a match is found. Thereafter, the donor will need to go to the nearest hospital or blood bank to donate plasma.
“So many of them,” says Kaashika. One of the biggest challenges that the team has been facing is liaising with governments and getting them onboard. “This requires coordination from state governments, hospitals, and doctors but it is time-consuming,” she says.
“We have been racing against time. We started working from 26 June and the prototype was made in a week. The final product, which is scheduled to be launched later this week, took another ten days of work,” says Kaashika.
Dr Varidh Katiyar, Senior Resident, Neurosurgery Dept. AIIMS, Delhi says, “Currently, the rate of plasma donations is less, not because of lack of initiative and the will among the recovered patients, but because of lack of awareness. This portal is going to make it easier for them to donate, whenever the need arises.”
It is also noteworthy to mention that the team has worked on developing this app remotely, with each team member working out of their own homes.
While a vaccine might still be some time away, initiatives like these could be a force multiplier in our war against COVID-19.
For any queries you may have on this application you can reach out to the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Disclaimer: The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) is currently conducting studies on plasma therapy [PLACID trial]. Results from a scientific perspective are still awaited. You are advised to consult a doctor before starting on any medical treatment.)
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)