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Brazilian institute seeks US help for anti-Ebola serum

IANS 20 Nov 2014, 7:26:54 AM IST

Sao Paulo: A Brazilian research centre is in talks with the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a serum to combat the deadly Ebola virus.

Butanta Institute, an entity linked to the Sao Paulo state government plans to develop the serum with the help of the NIH.

The details of the proposed accord between the two organisations were reportedly discussed in a meeting between the Sao Paulo authorities and the director of the Butanta Institute, Jorge Kalil Tuesday.

If the Brazilian government authorises the accord, the scientific centre will use biological material provided by the NIH to begin developing the serum, Kalil said.

He calculated that the serum would be available for human use in about nine months.

In contrast to a vaccine, which immunises the patient by inducing the body to increase the production of its own antibodies to defend itself against a virus, a serum introduces antibodies produced by another person or animal into the body.

The aim of the Butanta Institute is to develop the serum using the process that is already being used to manufacture a serum against rabies in immunised horses.

Instead of inducing the animals to produce antibodies against rabies by introducing a weakened form of the virus into their bodies, a non-pathogenic Ebola protein will be used in the procedure to develop the serum against the disease.

Ebola is a disease caused by the Ebola virus. Symptoms of the disease typically start between two days and three weeks after contracting the virus.

In the beginning, the symptoms may range from fever, sore throat, muscle pain, and headache.

Then, vomiting and diarrhea usually follow, along with decreased function of the liver and kidneys. Some of those affected may also begin to bleed both internally and externally.

"We already have a lot of experience in producing a serum against the rabies virus. It's very probable that we'll get a serum to neutralise Ebola, similar to the one we (have been) producing against rabies," he added.

"We're in contact with the NIH and we're travelling to the US to present the idea and sign the corresponding intellectual property and confidentiality contracts. The cooperation will begin very soon," he said.