As Ebola spreads out of control in West Africa, the World Health Organization reports a black market in blood from Ebola survivors. The epidemic is killing up to 70 percent of those who get sick, but the thousands who have survived have blood teeming with antibodies that protect them against infection again.
Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly has donated serum to three other patients — fellow medical missionary Dr. Rick Sacra, NBC camera operator Ashoka Mukpo and Dallas nurse Nina Pham. No one knows if it’s helped, but in theory Brantly’s antibodies should have kick-started their immune responses.
Because there’s no specific cure for Ebola, people are asking why not make blood available. Researchers in Texas say there may be an unexpected source: people with silent Ebola immunity.
“There is limited evidence from past outbreaks that suggests there probably are quite a few people who get exposed, who get infected, without ever developing symptoms and without ever developing illness but they develop immunity,” said Lauren Ancel Meyers, a professor in the Department of Integrative Biology at The University of Texas at Austin.
In other words, Ebola might be acting like its own vaccine.