Sierra Leone doctors to start large scale trials of serum treatment for Ebola

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 19 November 2014

Ebola - Weep Not MotherSierra Leone may soon be at the verge of a major breakthrough in the fight against Ebola, should clinical trials of the use of convalescent serum therapy (CST), prove successful.

The war against Ebola is one that the West African nation of six million must win, and fast.

According to official figures, over 5,000 people have so far contracted the virus. And should a multiplier effect be applied at the current rate of transmission, it is estimated that more than 50,000 people may have been infected as ‘collateral transmission’.

Treatment and holding centres in the country, are struggling to cope with the rising numbers of new cases that are being confirmed Ebola positive. Last week alone, more than 500 people were tested positive with the virus.

Hopes of a massive decline in infection and transmission by encouraging changes in traditional practices and behaviours have been dashed. Aged old habits and customs are difficult to break.

Likewise, hopes of a breakthrough in the development and early production of a clinically effective vaccine are yet to be realised. But doctors in Sierra Leone are hopeful.

Researchers in Oxford, UK, say that trials of a UK developed vaccine should commence in Sierra Leone in December. This, many believe, could make a massive difference in a country that is now facing the possibility of losing over five thousand of its citizens by March 2015.

Doctors in Sierra Leone say that with the development of an effective vaccine so far away, convalescent serum therapy could well become – at least in the short-term, a life saver for thousands of people in the country.

The Government of Sierra Leone in partnership with local doctors are preparing to start clinical trials of Convalescent Serum Therapy (CST) and CST treatment in the country.

CST uses blood donated from Ebola survivors to treat current patients in an attempt to jump-start the patients’ immune system to fight off the virus.

ebola survivors Sierra Leone1The government of Sierra Leone says that over 800 people have survived the Ebola virus.

This creates a large pool of potential blood donors, whom it is believed may be able to participate in the serum trials because of their immunity from the virus.

A local organization made of a global team of Sierra Leonean physicians and other professionals, called Sierra Leone Action, has today announced that a US company – Fresenius Kabi has donated nine serum transfusion instruments, which will be used in conducting the trials.

Sierra Leonean born doctor – Dr. S. Ahmed Tejan-Sie, who is a Clinical Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina (Chapel Hill) in the USA is founding member of Sierra Leone Action.

Ebola survivors1Speaking about the CST trials and today’s news, he said: “We are extremely grateful for the generosity of Fresenius Kabi, which  has donated all the required equipment and  supplies, sufficient to treat up to  18,000 patients, and will help the people of Sierra Leone begin to reduce and ultimately eliminate Ebola in Sierra Leone.

“As an implementing partner working in tandem with the Government of Sierra Leone, using the Autopheresis-C® system will encourage patients to present earlier and enable treatment centers to treat patients faster. We thereby anticipate this will lead to reduced disease transmission and contribute to ending the epidemic.”

Ebola survivors3Dr. Tejan-Sie also said that; “Fresenius Kabi has donated enough supplies for six months of treatment. With the appropriate protocols in place, Sierra Leone Action hopes that within this timeframe it will see improvements in the number of Ebola survivors. The study and treatments will initially begin at the Hastings Treatment Center in Freetown, the capital of Sierra Leone, under the direction of Co-Principal Investigator Dr. Foday Sahr.” (Photo: An Ebola survivor).

“The equipment will be shipped to Sierra Leone in the coming weeks and Sierra Leone Action US-based team members will be trained on how to use and maintain the equipment. The team will then fly to Sierra Leone to train the staff at the clinic as we begin the Convalescent Serum Therapy treatment.”

Mr. John Ducker – President and CEO of Fresenius Kabi USA, said; “We are pleased to support the important work of Sierra Leone Action. Our hope is that this study will make a significant difference in the fight to save lives in Sierra Leone and that the data and experience that results will serve to help improve patient care throughout West Africa. This donation is in keeping with the mission of Fresenius Kabi, which is to put lifesaving medicines and technologies in the hands of people who care for patients.”

Where there is hope, there is life.

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