Blood of Ebola survivors may be used to treat virus

As death toll passes 2,000, World Health Organisation says treatment could be ‘very effective’

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that blood taken from survivors of Ebola could be used in the effort to treat others with the virus.

Experts agreed today at a meeting in Geneva that blood-derived drug therapies and serum from survivors may be used for treatment of the virus, and called for investment in the experimental drugs.

“There is a real opportunity that blood-derived products can be used now. This can be very effective in terms of treating patients,” WHO assistant director-general Marie-Paule Kieny told a news conference.

“With the negative point that we have so many patients, one positive point is there are also many people now who are convalescent, who survived and are doing well, These people can provide blood, serum to treat.”


She added: “What is available will be used in the field to treat real patients as soon as possible.”

West Africa is currently battling the largest Ebola outbreak in history, with more than 2,000 people said to have died.

Two "promising" Ebola vaccines have also been identified, and safety results from clinical trials in the United States, Europe and Africa may be available from this November, paving the way for their use, Ms Kieny said.

The two vaccines are made by GlaxoSmithKline and NewLink Genetics, according to WHO documents submitted to the two-day talks attended by nearly 200 experts.

“These must be prioritised in terms of clinical development,” Ms Kieny said.

When the initial results are received on the vaccines’ safety, expected in November, they will be given to health care workers in the field as a priority, with their informed consent, she said.

“If we have good safety data, if the results are positive, they will start to be used in health care workers in order to protect and also to evaluate if it protects them.”