UC Irvine Global Health Research Education and Translation faculty and collaborators wrote a letter to the editor on issues related to non-professional Ebola treatment in an article titled “Black market blood transfusions for Ebola: potential for increases in other infections”. The paper was recently published ahead of print in the journal Global Health Action (http://www.globalhealthaction.net/index.php/gha/article/view/26356).
The Ebola outbreak in West Africa continues to be a global concern and attract international attention. As of November 14, 14,413 cases of Ebola have been reported in Guinea, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone, Spain, and the United States of America, and two previously affected countries (Nigeria and Senegal). With a total of approximately 5,177 deaths and a high fatality rate, the uptake of therapies that provide hope for a cure are highly sought after . Though there are few data on this phenomenon available, the media reports on how desperate patients turn to the black market to buy serum from convalescent patients in non-medical settings. With no cure in sight, a high fatality rate, and high level of stigma, the prospect for more persons to buy serum from convalescent patients and ask professionals to administer these therapies in homes or in private isolation care centres is becoming more common.
We highlight the challenges associated with the current high demand for serum from patients who survived Ebola infection. With little medical oversight in black market settings, there is a risk of escalating transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and viral hepatitis infection; two potential outcomes with far reaching hazardous consequences for the West African region. Ebola affected countries may therefore see an upsurge in prevalence of other blood borne infections both during and following the EVD epidemic, further taxing the already stressed poor health care system. Additional support and attention are needed to help curb this possibility, and community members must be further educated on proper management of Ebola and motivated to avoid charlatans for Ebola management.
Manuscript authors include Dr. Morenike Folayan from the Institute of Public Health at Obafemi Awolowo University, Dr. Aminu Yakubu from the Federal Ministry of Health in Nigeria, and Dr. Brandon Brown from the UC Irvine Program in Public Health GHREAT Initiative.