Jun 20, 2019 | Updated: 09:31 AM EDT

Can the Blood of Survivors Help Cure Ebola? The Limitations and Expectations of a New Vaccine

Dec 24, 2014 01:19 PM EST

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 Medical staff working with Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) prepare to bring food to patients kept in an isolation area at the MSF Ebola treatment centre in Kailahun July 20, 2014.
(Photo : Reuters)

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has killed 7,000 people and isn't slowing down, but research now shows that Ebola survivors may hold the cure to the deadly outbreak in their very own veins.

Vanderbilt University researcher Dr. James Crowe is using the blood of an Ebola survivor to create new, more potent drugs by extracting the proteins that helped them overcome the virus.  The blood sample was obtained in November from Dr. Rick Sacra, a University of Massachusetts doctor who contracted the virus while working in Liberia.

According to Sacra, a medical Christian missionary with SIM USA, doctors are working to extract the antibodies, immune system proteins that seek and destroy foreign invaders like viruses or bacteria, from his blood.

"They can take antibodies they find in my blood and map them out. They are looking for the ones that are most important in neutralizing the virus," Sacra told Reuters.

Sacra has made the blood available with "no strings attached" and is not looking for a payout if drugs using his antibodies actually hit the market.

Crowe is working with the pharmaceutical company, Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc, which plans to manufacture more antibodies for more testing.  Mapp is making its own drug, known as ZMapp, which is a cocktail of three antibodies that has helped treat Ebola patients.  Crowe hopes to improve the effectiveness of ZMapp with human antibodies from actual survivors with the hope of creating a drug that will treat all strains of Ebola.

Doctors and other members of the scientific community have embraced the idea of using blood from Ebola survivors in the fight against the virus.  Crowe works with both academic and corporate partners at Emory University to develop and test the antibodies from Ebola survivors.  Blood from Ebola survives, may yet prove to be the key in the struggle against the virus. 

There are many other pharmaceutical companies working to develop their own drugs to fight Ebola.  The race is officially on to find an effective cure for the deadly virus and as the virus continues to rampage across Africa scientists from all the companies must work fast to come up with an effective cure to stop Ebola in its tracks.

The antibodies from the blood of survivors of the deadly disease may finally enable researchers to create a treatment that is effective against all the strains of the virus and stop its spread across Africa and the rest of the world.

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