One of the common elements of successfully treating multiple Ebola patients in the US was to use blood antibodies from patients that had recovered from Ebola. South Korea is currently combating MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome ) using blood components from MERS patients that have recovered. This approach works with the body’s immune system to overcome the virus.
Reuters reported this approach on June 16, 2015 in an article by Jack Kim titled UPDATE 1-S. Korea conducts experimental plasma therapy on MERS patients. The minister of public health policy, Kwon Jun-wook, provided information to the media on this treatment against a serious health crisis in S. Korea. The use of plasma therapy is limited in Korea, but is based upon past experience with a different disease.
Plasma treatment was previously used in SARS patients with some positive results in seriously ill patients that led to a decrease in the death rate by up to 23 percent.
The plasma treatment is being used on MERS because of the success that this approach had against Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in 2003. Korea has identified 154 cases and 19 deaths from MERS as of Tuesday, June 16, 2015. MERS has its greatest incidence in Saudi Arabia where more than 1,000 people have contracted MERS since 2012, with 454 deaths. Korea’s quick response to quarantine MERS patients has resulted in a much lower death rate than Saudi Arabia. The rate of infection in Korea from MERS is slowing.
MERS and SARS are caused by similar coronaviruses. Because there is not a large market for a vaccine against MERS or SARS, no development has been started for a vaccine according to the Reuters article.
Three years after the MERS virus first emerged in humans, there is no cure or vaccine that can protect people from falling sick with it, and little work has been done in develop a vaccine, despite considerable available scientific detail.
The approach of using blood antibodies is cause for optimism, especially where the quantity of potential patients of a given virus or disease will not justify major investments by pharmaceutical manufacturers. Ebola, SARS and MERS have all responded to the blood plasma approach. Investments to continue the research to increase the availability of these antibodies are being made. Reuters released an article on this approach for Ebola by Julie Steenhuysen of Dec. 22, 2014 titled Exclusive: Can the blood of Ebola survivors create a cure?
The Western Medicine approach to fighting a disease in the body often uses methods that impair or destroy the body’s immune system. This includes chemotherapy and radiation for patients of cancers and other diseases. Wars in the body incur major collateral damage. Insurgent chemicals focused on cancers or diseased organs may destroy the resident disease fighters (leukocytes) and adjacent organ cells leading to drastic and sometimes fatal side-effects. Chemotherapy can cause cancers to spread because the immune system has been drastically compromised, or organ cells have been destroyed.
The use of antibodies from blood plasma works in concert with the body’s immune system to provide a more natural approach to curing these complex diseases like Ebola, SARS and MERS. The Oriental Medicine approach of strengthening the immune system to work to repair the effected organs is consistent with these plasma therapies. Plasma therapies and herbal supplements to improve energy and cellular health allow the immune system to work to combat diseases where antibiotics and vaccines have failed.
The human body is a complex, inter-dependent system that works best when its components work together to restore health. Proper diet, exercise, and stress management help prevent diseases, which is always preferable to trying to cure an acute illness. Further research into plasma therapies should be sponsored by the NIH to investigate a different approach to combating diseases where antibiotics and antiviruses don’t work, or are not available.