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Microsoft launching chatbot to urge recovered patients to donate plasma

Microsoft, working with a consortium of US-based pharmaceutical firms, will launch a chatbot to encourage recovered COVID-19 patients to donate plasma. The "Plasmabot" will help people determine whether they're eligible to donate and direct them to nearby sites. Convalescent plasma therapy involves using antibodies from the blood plasma of cured patients by administering them into ailing patients.

As countries including India explore plasma therapy to treat severe COVID-19 patients, Microsoft is launching a plasmabot initiative to encourage people who have been recovered from the deadly disease donate their plasma.

Several studies have begun in different parts of the world to test effectiveness of convalescent plasma therapy in treating COVID-19 patients. The idea behind this therapy is that immunity can be transferred from a healthy person to a sick using convalescent plasma.

Convalescent plasma refers to plasma from recovered COVID-19 patients.

According to a CNBC report, Microsoft is working with a consortium of pharmaceutical companies to launch a “plasmabot” this weekend to reach out to people who wish to donate their plasma .

“The plasmabot will also provide information about the procedure and direct them to a nearby site where they can safely make the donation,” said the report.

In this therapy, blood is drawn from a person who has recovered from the disease and the serum is separated and screened for virus-neutralising antibodies.

When attacked by a pathogen, our immune systems produce antibodies and in this therapy, these antibodies from recovered patients are used to treat other sick people.

According to Microsoft’s head of research Peter Lee, “the goal is to recruit as much plasma as soon as possible”.

Mirosoft is supporting the efforts of plasma alliance formed by companies like Octapharma, Takeda, CSL Behring and others.

Lee said he believes the plasma therapy has the “potential to save lives.”

According to Neha Gupta, Infectious Diseases Consultant at Fortis Memorial Research Institute in Gurugram, immunity develops early in asymptomatic or persons with mild symptoms, while it develops later in severe and critically-ill COVID 19 patients.

The process for donating plasma is similar to donating blood and takes about an hour, according to Houston Methodist which became the first academic medical centre in the US to transfuse donated plasma from a recovered COVID-19 patient into a critically ill patient.

Plasma donors are hooked up to a small device that removes plasma while simultaneously returning red blood cells to their bodies. Unlike regular blood donation in which donors have to wait for red blood cells to replenish between donations, plasma can be donated more frequently, as often as twice a week, it said.

In India, states like Kerala and Gujarat have started Convalescent Plasma Therapy from to treat Covid-19 patients.

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