A new blood serum treatment for Ebola made from the blood of survivors could be available in Liberia within two weeks, the World Health Organisation has revealed.
The serum will be formulated with antibodies extracted from the blood. Plans for two vaccines are also underway.
Teresa Romero, a Spanish nurse who became the first person to contract Ebola outside West Africa this year, tested negative for the virus after reportedly receiving human blood serum containing antibodies.
The epidemic has killed more than 4,500 people, mostly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone, since the outbreak started 10 months ago.
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
See the Ebola outbreak mapped
1/7 25 March 2014
This outbreak of the Ebola virus first emerged in the Guéckédou region of Guinea, at a crossroads with both Liberia and Sierra Leone
2/7 31 March
On 31 March the WHO confirmed the outbreak was now international, spreading first into Liberia's northern-most Lofa region
3/7 27 May
The virus spread to Sierra Leone at the end of May - just as agencies were hoping the worst was over
4/7 27 July
In Sierra Leone the virus boomed, and then it spread to Nigeria when the Liberian diplomat Patrick Sawyer flew from Monrovia to Lagos
5/7 9 August
The Nigeria cases sparked fears around the world, and there have now been deaths in Spain and Saudi Arabia involving people who had travelled to West Africa. The numbers of cases continue to rise
6/7 17-20 September
In mid-September, Senegal confirmed its first case linked to the Ebola outbreak, a development the WHO described as a top priority emergency. Numbers of cases continued to grow exponentially in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, as experts warned they could number one million by January if not contained
7/7 8 October
Two cases of Ebola have now been reported in the US and Europe - the first times the virus has been contracted among health workers outside Africa
Experts have said the world could see 10,000 new cases a week in two months if authorities did not do more to tackle the virus.
Dr Marie Paule Kieny, assistant director general at the WHO, said: “There are partnerships which are starting to be put in place to have capacity in the three countries to safely extract plasma and make preparation that can be used for the treatment of infective patients.
“The partnership which is moving the quickest will be in Liberia where we hope that in the coming weeks there will be facilities set up to collect the blood, treat the blood and be able to process it for use.”
Donor blood will need to be screened for diseases such as HIV, malaria and hepatitis before red blood cells are removed so that there are only the infection-fighting antibodies in the plasma left.
Two vaccines for the viral disease are also planned to be tested in West Africa by January, the UN health agency announced.
The trials will start in the new year on more than 20,000 frontline health care workers, however Dr Kieny said there is a risk the vaccines could fail.
“These are quite large trials,” she said.
An effective vaccine would not be enough to contain the outbreak but could protect medical workers, of which 200 have already died of Ebola.
The real-world testing in West Africa will only go ahead if the vaccines prove safe and trigger an adequate immune-system response in volunteers during clinical trials that are either underway or planned for Europe, Africa and the US.
The preliminary safety data is expected to become available by December this year.Reuse content