In our new series Other Uses of Plasma, we will cover other domains, besides life-saving protein therapies, that rely on plasma. In the previous blog of the series, we covered the immense importance of plasma in managing severe burn injuries. In this blog, we will look at its importance in treating Lyme disease.
In the US, Lyme is the most common vector-borne disease: a disease transmitted by mosquitoes, fleas, or ticks. It is caused by the bacteria Bacterium Borrelia, which is carried by infected black-legged ticks and is transmitted to us through their bites.
The most common symptoms of the infection are fatigue, headache, fever, and erythema migrans, which is a skin rash, that expands gradually, and appears around the bite site. However, if left untreated, Lyme can also spread to joints, the heart, and the nervous system.
In most cases, antibiotics treat Lyme, but there is an alternative: plasma therapy.
Our plasma carries the proteins on which our immune system relies to detect and destroy foreign microbes such as bacteria or viruses. However, when infected with Lyme, our plasma also carries the harmful toxins produced by the bacteria.
The toxins impair the functioning of the proteins, thereby impairing the immune system, making it unable to control the disease.
There are two kinds of plasma therapies that can help undo this. Both involve plasmapheresis: the process of collecting blood, separating plasma from it, and returning the rest of the blood's constituents.
The major difference being: Either plasmapheresis is done to the patient of Lyme itself, such that the plasma collected is cleansed and filtered for toxins and returned back to the patient. Or, plasmapheresis is done to someone else — a healthy, voluntary donor of plasma, which is then transferred to the infected patient.
In both cases, the patient is provided with protein-rich, toxin-free plasma that helps 'jump start' her immune system, making it much stronger and effective against the infection.
Plasma really is the gift that keeps on giving.
Want to donate plasma? Find more information here.