L.A.S MEDIA HOUSE

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Ebola Virus Cure: Blood of Survivors Holds Key – WHO

The best chance for an immediate treatment for
Ebola patients in the worst outbreak in history
may be readily available – in the blood of
survivors.
With experimental drugs in short supply or not
ready for use, global health officials are exploring
whether the natural immunity survivors gain
after they shed the virus can be shared with
others.

The idea would be to use their plasma, the part of
blood that contains antibodies, to help fight off
the infection.
Some early research suggests using blood from
survivors could be a success. In 1995 in Kikwit in
the Democratic Republic of Congo, seven of eight
infected people given the therapy survived during
an outbreak with an 80 per cent fatality rate.
While studies have since showed conflicting
results, the strategy is worth trying again as the
current death toll rises, said David Wood, who
leads a World Health Organisation team
evaluating the approach.
It is "a feasible option", said Mr Wood. "We're
consulting with the blood operators who have
capability to assist, so that we can get some
realistic sense of when this could be available as
an option. We'll have that information pretty
soon."
The WHO reported that by 13 August, 1,145
people had died from Ebola in Guinea, Sierra
Leone, Liberia and Nigeria since the outbreak
began.
The virus causes bleeding from the eyes, ears and
nose with most patients dying from multiple
organ failure.
About 40 per cent of people infected in the
current outbreak have survived, according to the
WHO. Researchers are targeting those who lived
for a treatment that may not require drugmakers
to be involved at all. Once the researchers get the
blood, they will test it for other diseases and then
separate out the plasma.
Antibodies in plasma are produced by white
blood cells in response to foreign invaders in the
body. They bind to the microbes, either
neutralising them or flagging them for other parts
of the immune system to attack.
Mary Kate Hart, an immunology researcher who
did early studies of Ebola antibodies for the US
Army, said that transfusions from survivors may
carry a benefit, especially if given early in the
course of the disease, and are likely to be
relatively safe.
"It is not a crazy idea to try," said Ms Hart, who is
no longer involved in the antibody research. Kent
Brantly, the American aid worker infected with
Ebola in Liberia last month, was given such a
treatment.
Mr Brantly received a blood transfusion from a
14-year-old survivor, according to Samaritan's
Purse, a North Carolina-based aid group. He also
received an experimental antibody-based
therapy.
While his condition has improved, it is not known
if either the blood transfusion or the treatment,
called "ZMapp", aided his recovery, or whether
his immune system fought off the virus.
"This would be something that countries could try
themselves, and it would be much more feasible
and much more immediate," David Heymann, a
professor of infectious diseases at the London
School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said of
the transfusion treatment.
"But it shouldn't take precedence over outbreak
containment."
Source: NCW

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