As we discussed in class, one of the ways that immunity can be passed onto another person is through passive immunoprophylaxis. This has been one treatment that has been used on multiple Ebola patients in the US. Patients who have had Ebola and have since recovered have antibodies in their blood that target the Ebola virus. These antibodies help the patients fight against the Ebola virus.
Plasma is the liquid portion of the blood where the antibodies can be found. One method to bolster the immunity of a person who is currently fighting the Ebola virus has been to transfuse blood plasma, which contains the anti-Ebola antibodies, into patients that are currently infected. This technique has been applied to the Dallas nurse who was infected, Dr. Kent Brantley and is now being used on the infected NYC doctor.
While it looks like this method of treatment for Ebola is effective, no scientific study has been done on it, and there are no statistics that can support that the transfusion of plasma is actually effective. In the African patients who had previously been treated with this method, and even the Americans who have had this passive immunoprophylaxis treatment, there are many variables that complicate the understanding of plasma transfusion effectiveness in the treatment of Ebola. In Africa, many of the patients received differing levels of care which could affect the supposed effectiveness of antibody transfusion. In the American patients, many of them were also receiving experimental drugs alongside any plasma transfusion treatments they may have been undergoing.
In order to better study the effectiveness of plasma transfusion in the treatment of Ebola, a $3.7 million dollar grant has been given to scientists to study the treatment in Guinea. Hopefully, this will give us some insight into how the antibodies work, and perhaps lead to further research that can help us manufacture Ebola antibodies in bulk for treatments!