Study Will Test Ebola Survivors' Blood to Treat Virus

Image: Numerous filamentous Ebola virus particles (blue) budding from a chronically-infected VERO E6 cell (yellow-green).
Produced by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), this digitally-colorized scanning electron micrograph (SEM) depicts numerous filamentous Ebola virus particles (blue) budding from a chronically-infected VERO E6 cell (yellow-green).NIAID via CDC

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A coalition of companies and aid groups announced plans Tuesday to test experimental drugs and collect blood plasma from Ebola survivors to treat new victims of the disease in West Africa. Plasma from survivors contains antibodies, substances the immune system makes to fight the virus. Several Ebola patients have received survivor plasma and recovered, but doctors say there is no way to know whether it really helps without a study like the one they are about to start within a month.

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is giving $5.7 million to scale up production of the treatments for the project in Guinea and other Ebola-affected countries in Africa. More than a dozen companies, universities and others are contributing supplies, staff and cash, and are working with the countries and the World Health Organization on specific procedures and locations.

There are no drugs or vaccines approved now for Ebola, which has killed about 5,000 people this year in West Africa, most of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Doctors Without Borders last week also said it would host studies of experimental treatments and plasma at three of its West Africa treatment centers.

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—The Associated Press

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