EU project to test if blood from Ebola survivors can provide
antibodies for treatment
24 October 2014
An international research consortium led by the Institute of
Tropical Medicine in Antwerp (ITM) will assess whether treatment
with antibodies from the blood of Ebola survivors could help
infected patients to fight off the disease.
If proven effective, this straightforward intervention could be
scaled-up in the short term and provide an urgently needed treatment
option for patients in West Africa.
The European Union has allocated €2.9 million funding to evaluate
the safety and efficacy of treatment with blood and plasma made from
the blood of recovered Ebola patients.
A WHO expert meeting in September recommended convalescent blood
therapies as one of the most promising strategies meriting urgent
evaluation as treatment of Ebola disease. As a result of the current
outbreak, there are also substantial numbers of survivors to prepare
ITM’s Johan van Griensven, the project’s coordinating
investigator, said, “Blood and plasma therapy are medical
interventions with a long history, safely used for other infectious
diseases. We want to find out whether this approach works for Ebola,
is safe and can be put into practice to reduce the number of deaths
in the present outbreak. Ebola survivors contributing to curb the
epidemic by donating blood could reduce fear of the disease and
improve their acceptance in the communities.”
Blood and plasma from recovered Ebola patients has been used in a
limited number of patients previously. For example, during the 1995
Ebola outbreak in Kikwit, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC), seven out of eight patients receiving convalescent whole
blood survived. However, whether this was due to the transfusions or
to other factors is unclear. There is an urgent need to evaluate
this therapy in carefully designed studies according to the highest
ethical and scientific standards.
EU Research, Innovation and Science Commissioner Máire Geoghegan-Quinn
said in the announcement on Thursday (23 Oct) that it is urgent to
step up medical research on Ebola. According to Geoghegan-Quinn the
selected projects ”enlist the best academic researchers and industry
to take the fight to this deadly disease.”
The UK's Wellcome Trust will provide additional support, enabling
unparalleled international collaboration across the public, private
and not-for-profit sectors to tackle the Ebola emergency.
Jeremy Farrar, Director of the Wellcome Trust, said: The Wellcome
Trust is delighted to work in partnership with the European
Commission to support and help fast-track this critical work.
Convalescent serum offers the best potential treatment for Ebola in
the short term that could be scaled up if proven effective. Global
collaboration of this nature, including clinical researchers and
multiple partners from across Europe and West Africa, is both
unprecedented and essential if we are to bring the current outbreak
International research consortium
The €2.9 million grant from the EU will fund the Institute of
Tropical Medicine in Antwerp, University of Liverpool, London School
of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, University of Oxford, Aix-Marseille
University, the French Blood Transfusion Service (Etablissement
Français du Sang), Institute Pasteur, and the French National
Institute of Health and Medical Research.
The consortium also includes the National Blood Transfusion
Centre in Conakry (Guinea), the Institut National de Recherche
Biomédicale in Kinshasha (DRC), and the Belgian Red Cross-Flanders.
The project, which will start in Guinea in November 2014, is
supported and guided by the WHO and the International Severe Acute
Respiratory and Emerging Infection Consortium (ISARIC).