July 23, 2015 By Ibrahim Tarawallie
The first donations of plasma from survivors of the Ebola scourge in Sierra Leone have been administered to three Ebola patients currently admitted at the 34 Military Hospital Treatment Center in the west of Freetown.
People who have survived Ebola develop antibodies in their blood, which appear to protect them from repeated infection. These antibodies are given to Ebola patients in a plasma transfusion to help them fight the infection.
Dr. Calum Semple from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Child Health is leading a team of scientists from the university and colleagues at the hospital and the Ministry of Health and Sanitation that are currently championing the Ebola Convalescent Plasma study to get as much plasma as possible from the blood of Ebola survivors.
He told a press conference in Freetown that the study is designed to find out whether Ebola survivors’ plasma contains protective antibodies, as well as if their plasma can be used safely to reduce the number of deaths in this and future outbreaks, adding that the initiative is local which is why large drugs companies cannot make profit from it.
“This is an African solution for an African problem. We make plasma in 30 minutes for children and adult. It is suitable for all ages. Let me say that all our plasma donors are volunteers,” he said and expressed fervent hope that plasma transfusion will bring hope to Sierra Leone by encouraging those who were afraid to visit the treatment centers to go for treatment.
Asked the reason for the delay in using the convalescent plasma on Ebola patients, Dr. Semple opined that there were no Ebola patients at the site (34 Military Hospital) where the study is being conducted.
President of the Sierra Leone Association of Ebola Survivors, Yusuf Kabba, said: “We are not donating for money but a sacrifice to save the lives of our brothers and sisters who are infected with the deadly virus. We are happy now that our plasma is now being used on Ebola patients.”
He stated that those that volunteered to donate their plasma felt frustrated at some point because they were expecting it to be used on Ebola patients immediately after donation, which was never the case.
Ebola survivor and plasma donor, Ahmed Wurie Barrie, urged all survivors to support the research so that more lives are not lost in the country or anywhere else in the world, while thanking the researchers and hospital staff for their support in undergoing what he referred to as “a simple procedure”.