Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Plan to Use Survivors’ Blood for Ebola Treatment in Africa

With no proven drugs to treat Ebola and experimental ones in short supply, the health authorities are planning to turn instead to a treatment that is walking around in the outbreak zone in West Africa. - NYT

That would be the blood of people who have been sickened by the Ebola virus but have since recovered. Their blood should contain antibodies that might help other patients fight off the infection.

The World Health Organization is making it a priority to try such convalescent blood or plasma, as it is called, and is talking with the affected countries about how to do it.

This week, the organization issued guidance on how to collect the blood and administer transfusions.

“The concept that this treatment could be efficacious is biologically plausible, as convalescent plasma has been used successfully for the treatment of a variety of infectious agents,” the W.H.O. guidance document says.

Plausibility, however, is not proof that such treatments would work for Ebola and some virologists doubt it will. The results of studies in monkeys were discouraging, they note...

Authorities say this approach has been used in Africa, but to a limited extent. There have even been rumors of a black market for the blood of survivors. Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of the W.H.O., said in a news conference last month that her organization would work to stamp out underground use of blood because such a therapy must be administered properly and safely.

The use of blood or plasma — either from recovered patients or from animals deliberately exposed to a pathogen — dates from the late 1800s, and for decades was a mainstay of treatment for infectious diseases. Emil von Behring, a German physician scientist, won the first Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1901 for pioneering the serum approach for diphtheria.

What you Need To Know About The Ebola Outbreak - NYT