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Hospitals in West African nations hit with Ebola are struggling to treat patients, but now those patients are relying on the black market for a chance at survival.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), patients have taken to buying blood from survivors of the virus on the black market. The blood, which is called convalescent serum, is thought to have antibodies that may fight the virus.

The blood acting as a cure has not been approved.

“Studies suggest blood transfusions from survivors might prevent or treat Ebola virus infection in others, but the results of the studies are still difficult to interpret,” the WHO said.

“It is not known whether antibodies in the plasma of survivors are sufficient to treat or prevent the disease. More research is needed.”

The serum has worked in some cases. American aid worker Rick Sacra, who was flown to Nebraska for treatment, used survivor Kent Brantly’s blood during his recovery. Brantly was infected with Ebola in Liberia, flown to Atlanta for treatment, and now shows no signs of the deadly virus.

But the channels through which patients are getting the blood is troubling for the WHO.

The illicit trade can lead to the spread of other infections, including HIV and other blood-related ailments.

“We need to work very closely with the affected countries to stem out black market trading of convalescent serum for two reasons,” Margaret Chan, the WHO’s director-general, said this week.

“Because it is in the interest of individuals not to just get convalescent serum without … going through the proper standard and the proper testing because it is important that there may be other infectious vectors that we need to look at.”

So far, the deadliest outbreak of Ebola has killed 2,400 people in Liberia, Guinea, and Sierra Leone.

SOURCE: CNN | PHOTO CREDIT: Getty

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