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Sierra Leone starts using Ebola survivors’ plasma to treat patients

Sierra Leone starts using Ebola survivors’ plasma to treat patients

The first donations of plasma from survivors of the Ebola epidemic in Sierra Leone have been tested on Ebola patients at the 34 Military Hospital in Freetown following long delay of its approval for use.

According to Dr. Calum Semple, lead researcher from the University of Liverpool, people who survived Ebola develop antibodies in their blood which appear to protect them from repeated infection, and those antibodies will be given to Ebola patients in a plasma transfusion to help them fight the infection.

He said convalescent plasma therapy has been used since 1891 to treat severe diseases and the research which started in March 2015 in Sierra Leone is to find out whether Ebola survivors’ plasma contains protective antibodies and if their plasma can be used to reduce the current and future outbreaks.

“This is good news,” said Dr. Semple. “It has been incredibly frustrating waiting this long for a test of our work but now I am relieved that we are using it because I believe it works.”

Dr. Semple registered his appreciation to the Ebola survivors, whom he described as very brave to donate their serum for the research work.

“Other drugs being tested on Ebola infected persons are expensive but this is an African study that is very cheap and sustainable for any possible outbreak,” he noted.

However, the doctor from the University of Liverpool said he will not speak about the outcome of the test until an independent assessment is done on its impact and reaction of patients.

Meanwhile, Dr. Sahr Moses Ngevao- Principal Investigator Ebola Convalescent Plasma Study at the Ministry of Health and Sanitation- described the study as a breakthrough in local research.

“This really works, it’s a Sierra Leonean innovation; a local solution to a local problem that must be celebrated,” Dr. Ngevao applauded.

He recalled that earlier in December 2014 they started a research on using a complete blood study from survivors to infected persons which was very successful until the World Health Organisation sent in a technical team to support them with equipment and capacity following a research with Dr. Semple for the use of plasma.

Yusuf Kabba, President of the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors, who is one of the serum donors, said the test of the trial will give hope to people and encourage them to come out for treatment and save their lives. He said they appreciate the good work of Dr. Ngevao, Dr. Semple and their research team for such a wonderful job which they are grateful to be part of as voluntary donors.

“This is good news; we appreciate this work which we believe will save many lives if its use is not further delayed,” said Yusuf, and urged other survivors to support the research and donate their serum to save other people.

The use of convalescent plasma is being studied in all three of the West African countries affected by Ebola- Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. The study in Sierra Leone was established by Dr. Semple, pooling resources from a sister study in Guinea led by Dr. Johan van Griensven of the Institute of Tropical Medicine Antwerp and a study in Liberia led by Dr. David Hoover of Clinical RM.

By Amadu Lamrana Bah

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