Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly donated a unit of blood to treat another infected U.S. aid worker, Dr. Rick Sacra, last week, Samaritan's Purse told NBC News.
"He flew out from North Carolina to Nebraska to give a unit of blood," Samaritan's Purse President and CEO Franklin Graham said. "His blood was a perfect match."
Sacra, a volunteer who was working in Liberia for another group, SIM, is being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha.
Using serum from an Ebola survivor is not new, but is considered highly experimental.
“When somebody survives an Ebola infection, they have antibodies in their blood that can attack the virus. So, the idea of giving somebody the blood from a survivor is that they’ll have those pre-made antibodies ready to start fighting the virus,” said Dallas Morning News Medical Expert Dr. Seema Yasmin.
Yasmin said the reason the treatment is considered experimental is because although it’s been done in the past, there is no concrete evidence it actually works.
“The medical community is divided about whether transfusions for Ebola treatment are a good idea or not. On the one side, you’ve got doctors saying transfusions may or may not work, we’re not sure why they’re giving them. On the other hand, the World Health Organization says right now there’s no other treatment and fear is really fueling this epidemic. So, let’s at least offer this as a glimmer of hope- a possible treatment that could work,” Yasmin said.
The World Health Organization approved the transfusion.
Dr. Sacra’s wife said she couldn’t be more grateful.
"It really meant a lot to us that he was willing to make that donation so soon. I spoke with his wife before it was arranged. We both marveled that they had the same blood type," said Debbie Sacra.
Yasmin said blood transfusions always carry an element of risk, especially if the blood hasn’t been screened properly and could contain an infection.
However, given the attention and severity of this case, there is an extremely small chance of that happening.
Yasmin added a vaccine for Ebola could be ready within the next few months, but an experimental treatment most likely wouldn’t be available until at least 2015.