Blood of Ebola survivors to help other patients with the disease

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A team of international scientists has been set up to determine if it would be effective to use the blood of Ebola survivors as a treatment method.

They are hoping that the antibodies used by the immune system in the fight against Ebola can be transferred from a survivor to a patient.

The study will commence in Guinea, with the research being led by the Institute of Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, Belgium.

The European Union has provided €2.9m to fund the project, which has received the support of the World Health Organization (WHO) as the Ebola epidemic continues to worsen.

Blood as Medicine

People produce antibodies in their blood in a bid to fight off the Ebola infection. Theoretically, these antibodies could be transferred from a survivor to a patient to offer a boost to their immune system. However, there is no certainty on the effectiveness of this treatment method.

Studies done during the 1995 Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) showed that seven out of eight people survived after receiving this form of therapy.

Safety

According to the Institute of Tropical Medicine’s Johan van Griensven, blood and plasma therapy interventions have a long history and have been proven to be safe for other infectious diseases.

He said they want to determine if this approach would be effective and safe for Ebola so that it can be put into use in an attempt to reduce the number of fatalities in the current outbreak.

He added that Ebola survivors who contribute blood to curb the epidemic could reduce the fear associated with the disease and improve community acceptance.

To date, more than 4800 people have died of the disease.

The efforts to test this therapy will be done as collaboration between the Institute of Tropical Medicine, London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Aix-Marseille University, Institute Pasteur, the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research, the French Blood Transfusion Service, University of Oxford and the University of Liverpool.

The Belgian Red Cross-Flanders, the Institut National de Recherche Biomedicale in Kinshasa (DRC) and the National Blood Transfusion Centre in Conakry, Guinea, will also form part of the consortium.

A medical charity based in the UK, the Wellcome Trust, has also offered their assistance with this project. The director of the charity, Jeremy Farrar, said convalescent serum is the best potential short-term treatment for Ebola, which could be increased if it proves to be effective.

He said this form of global collaboration, which includes multiple European and West African partners, along with clinical researchers, is unprecedented and crucial if the current outbreak is to be brought under control.

Image Credit: The Speaker

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