Serum, a vaccine made from the blood of recovered Ebola patients could be available within weeks in Liberia, one of the countries’ worst hit by the virus, says the World Health Organization (WHO).
Speaking in Geneva, Dr. Marie Paule Kieny, said work was also advancing quickly to get drugs and a vaccine ready for January 2015.The Ebola outbreak has already killed more people and most of the deaths have been in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
According to the BBC, Dr. Kieny, WHO’s Assistant Director General for Health System and innovation said, “There are partnerships which are starting to be put in place to have capacity in the three countries to safely extract plasma and make preparation that can be used for the treatment of infective patients.”
“The partnership which is moving fast will be in Liberia where we hope that in the coming weeks there will be facilities set up to collect the blood, treat the blood and be able to process it for use,” Dr. Keiny said.
However, it is still unclear how much will become available and whether it could meet demand.
The Serum vaccine is believed that if a person has successfully fought off the infection, it means their body has learned how to combat the virus and they will have antibodies in their blood that can attack Ebola.
Doctors can then take a sample of their blood and turn it into serum by removing the red blood cells but keeping the important antibodies which can be used to treat other patients.
The vaccines will be tested first to see if they are safe for humans, and if they can protect people from the Ebola virus.Once these questions have been answered, the WHO hopes to extend the trials to a much wider group of people and start giving it to Africa.
“These trials will all start in the coming two weeks and continue for six months to a year but to have initial results about safety and immunogenicity to have a choice of a dose level by the end of this year in December,” WHO expert assured.
Dr. Kieny said there were a number of drugs being tested and developed in different countries.
Meanwhile, a partnership between Oxford University and the Wellcome Trust is now visiting sites in the three affected African countries to identify which treatment centers would be adequate and willing to start testing drugs soon.
In a related development, the WHO’s emergency committee is holding talks to discuss the Ebola epidemic. The meeting in Geneva will examine screening measures at borders and consider whether stricter travel regulations should be put in place.
The latest news said new US rules requiring air passengers from the three West African countries worst hit by Ebola to travel via one of five airports are coming into effect and travellers from Sierra Leone, Liberia or Guinea must now arrive at O’Hare in Chicago, JFK, Newark, Washington’s Dulles or Atlanta, where they will undergo enhanced screening.
Travellers from these countries will have their temperatures checked as part of screening programs, despite experts warning such moves are unlikely to have an impact. The new security measures come as public concern grows in the US, where three people have been infected and one person has died from the virus.
Still on the Ebola issue, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma at the head of a 14-member delegation is expected to arrive in Liberia today for a one-day official visit.
The visit of the African Union Chairperson to Liberia is part of her tour of the three countries worst affected by the Ebola Virus Disease. The Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission of Africa (ECA) Dr. Carlos Lopes is accompanying her on a visit that will take the delegation to Sierra Leone and Guinea.
According to a Foreign Ministry release, the AU Chairperson will meet with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and other senior officials of Government at the Foreign Ministry to be followed by a Press Stake- Out.
The AU Chairperson will also meet with UNMIL Chief Karin Landgren, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General on Ebola, Mr. Anthony Branbury and members of the National Ebola Task Force, among others.
The release said the visit by Dr. Zuma is to show solidarity and support for the efforts of the Government and People of Liberia in trying to contain the Ebola pandemic and to discuss the African Union’s comprehensive efforts, currently ongoing, to combat the Ebola virus.
The African Union has already deployed a 36-member team of medical personnel to assist with the fight against Ebola under the African Union Support to Ebola Outbreak Operations in West Africa (ASEOWA).
The AU Chairperson will use her visit to assess the operations of the team and determine the possibility of scaling up the AU presence in Liberia.