The Plasma Mobile, 'A gift from heaven': The impact of health technology transfer on trial perceptions and expectations during the Ebola-Tx Trial, Conakry.

During the West African Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic from 2014 to 2016, a variety of technologies travelled considering the context of the emergency: a highly contagious fast-killing disease outbreak with no known remedy and a rapidly increasing number of cases. The Ebola-Tx clinical trial tes...

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Published in:PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases Vol. 14; no. 4; pp. 1 - 18
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Format: Article
Published: Public Library of Science, 4/22/2020
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Summary:During the West African Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) epidemic from 2014 to 2016, a variety of technologies travelled considering the context of the emergency: a highly contagious fast-killing disease outbreak with no known remedy and a rapidly increasing number of cases. The Ebola-Tx clinical trial tested the efficacy of Convalescent Plasma (CP) as a treatment for EVD in Guinea. This paper is based on ethnographic research in the Ebola-Tx trial and focuses on the introduction of a mobile plasma collection centre, referred to as the 'Plasma Mobile', equipped with plasmapheresis and pathogen inactivation technologies, as well as how the transfer itself of this technology entailed complex effects on CP donors as trial participants (i.e. providers of the therapeutic product), directly involved staff and more broadly on the trial implementation as a whole. The transfer led to the emergence of a dimension of hope as CP donors hoped that the plasma would cure and, as providers of the therapeutic, hoped it would decrease their stigmatization and the economic impact of the disease. We conclude that, in light of the intricate effects that the transfer of such health technology can entail–in the localization to the specific context, as well as in the consequences they can have on actors involved in the implementation of such technologies–global health technologies should be put at the services of next epidemic and pandemic (preparedness) on condition that they are accompanied by an understanding of the technologies' own cultural meanings and social understandings. Author summary: The Ebola-Tx trial tested the efficacy of Convalescent Plasma (CP) as a treatment for Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) in Guinea during the 2014–2016 West African outbreak. As part of the trial, a bus equipped with plasmapheresis and pathogen inactivation technologies, referred to as the 'Plasma Mobile', was used to collect plasma from Ebola survivors, hence recruited as CP donors. Previous studies on clinical trials during the EVD outbreak in West Africa showed positive impact triggered by the introduction of technologies such as improvements in work conditions and care. In our ethnographic research on the Plasma Mobile as transferred technology, we show that technologies contributed to bringing less stress and mistrust in the (highly sensitive issue of the) use of blood products. The organization of the technology in the Plasma Mobile aimed at avoiding mistakes and improving staff performance. In sum, we describe the effects of technologies in staff and CP donors, including the hope for new and improved futures for donors and EVD patients. These results may shed light upon epidemic preparedness, for instance on the need for providing cultural meaning and social understandings to the transfer of technologies.