The black market for Ebola survivors’ blood
Thursday, September 18, 2014
Ebola has infected nearly 4,800 people. It has killed more than 2,400. And a black market for the blood of its survivors is emerging in the epicenter of the outbreak in West Africa, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Convalescent serum — serum collected from someone who has survived an infectious disease — has been used to treat Ebola victims. Most recently, it was given to 51-year-old American aid worker Rick Sacra from survivor Kent Brantly. Blood from Ebola survivors is rich with antibodies against the deadly virus, and since there is currently no approved drug to fight it, some have become desperate enough to take fate into their own hands and turn to the black market for the experimental serum.
But WHO is concerned about the illicit trade, since giving a patient someone else’s blood can cause anaphylactic shock and death or infect with other diseases such as HIV if the blood is tainted. For that reason, the United Nations health agency said it will work with governments to stamp out the black market, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, and establish a safe system for collecting, storing and re-injecting blood.
- Health Care