iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Ebola survivor Dr. Kent Brantly has donated the plasma in his blood to three patients in the last month, echoing what one of his former patients did for him before he left Liberia.

Brantly was caring for sick Ebola patients with the aid group Samaritan’s Purse in Monrovia, Liberia, when he became the first American diagnosed with Ebola in late July.

His condition was worsening before he was flown to the United States in an air ambulance. But before he left, one of his former patients, a 14-year-old Ebola survivor, gave him “a unit of blood” for a transfusion, according to Samaritan’s Purse.

Since his recovery and release from Emory University Hospital on Aug. 21, Brantly has donated his plasma to Samaritan’s Purse colleague Dr. Rick Sacra and freelance cameraman Ashoka Mukpo, both of whom were receiving treatment for Ebola at Nebraska Medical Center. They received his plasma transfusions on or around Sept. 11 and Oct. 8, respectively — about 27 days apart.

The latest American Ebola patient, Dallas nurse Nina Pham, who contracted the virus while treating Thomas Eric Duncan, received a blood donation of some kind from Brantly, according to health officials.

Plasma is a component of blood that contains virus-fighting proteins called antibodies. When someone donates plasma, their blood is drawn into a machine that separates out the plasma and returns the red blood cells to the donor.

“There is a strong theoretical possibility that this could help, particularly if this is given early,” said Dr. William Schaffner, chair of preventive medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee.

Here’s how it works: When confronted with a virus, the immune system creates antibodies to specifically target that virus, kill it and keep it from coming back, he said. Once a person has antibodies, they stay in their blood for life. If the Ebola antibodies found in an Ebola survivor’s blood can be imported into a struggling Ebola patient’s body, those antibodies can theoretically help the patient’s immune system fight off the deadly virus.

“What those antibodies do is bind to the virus,” Schaffner said. “They find the virus and bind to it and prevent it from multiplying further.”

Schaffner said even though the sick person’s body is trying to make antibodies, an infection can be so overwhelming that the sick person’s immune system might not be able to keep up with the invading virus. As a result, the sooner someone gets a plasma transfusion, the more likely it is to help that person recover, he said.

During his battle with Ebola, Brantly also received the experimental drug ZMapp, a cocktail of three synthetic antibodies to attack Ebola, before leaving West Africa for Emory University Hospital. Brantly was declared virus-free and discharged on Aug. 21, but the hospital epidemiologist, Dr. Bruce Ribner, said it wasn’t clear what roles ZMapp and the transfusion played in his recovery.

A person can donate plasma up to 13 times a year, or every 28 days, unlike whole blood donations, which must be spaced between two and four months apart, according to the American Red Cross. Though Brantly’s first two plasma donations were spaced about a month apart, his last two were barely a week apart. But it’s also possible Brantly donated excess plasma during one of his donations, which then went to Pham.

Though blood type O is considered the universal donor for whole blood, type AB is the universal donor for plasma, according to the Red Cross. According to Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, where Duncan was being treated, Duncan did not receive any kind of blood transfusion because his blood type was not compatible with any of the donors.

In September, the World Health Organization said blood therapies should be “considered as a matter of priority.” Since then, the number of people who have been infected with Ebola since March has doubled to 8,399, and 4,033 of them have died, according to the latest WHO figures.

“There is a real opportunity that a blood-derived product can be used now and this can be very effective in terms of treating patients,” said Dr. Marie Paule Kieny, WHO’s assistant director general, said on Sept. 5.

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Courtesy Pham Family(DALLAS) — Dallas nurse Nina Pham’s dog Bentley has been taken into custody by an animal shelter as she is being treated for Ebola, officials said.

The King Charles Spaniel was first kept in Pham’s apartment while Dallas County officials assessed the situation this weekend. But it has been cause for concern since a Spanish nurse who contracted the disease had her pet euthanized out of fears that it could be a carrier of the deadly virus.

It does not appear that any similar action will be taken in Texas, however, as Judge Mike Rawlings said that they will be taking good care of the pet while the 26-year-old nurse is in treatment.

The city’s animal shelter is now caring for the dog at an undisclosed location, officials said. The Dallas Animal Services and Adoption Center posted a note on its official Facebook page confirming their involvement and they wrote that they will be posting pictures “once we’ve shown the owner he’s okay.”

They also shared photos that showed a team of people in hazmat suits collecting the dog from Pham’s apartment Monday afternoon.

“It was a bit of a challenge,” the caption reads.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — If you tax it, they’ll drink less of it.

That’s what seems to be happening in Mexico, according to The Wall Street Journal, after the government slapped a tax on sugary drinks to reduce consumption.

A survey by public health advocates reveals that just over half of Mexicans who drink sugary beverages say they’ve cut back compared to a year ago.

According to 2013 statistics, one in four Mexicans consumed three liters of soda weekly with the number now falling to one in five.

People have also gotten the message that too much sugar is bad for your health. The survey said that 98 percent of Mexicans are aware that these drinks can boost the risk of diabetes and obesity.

That being said, Mexico has one of the unhealthiest diets in this hemisphere with 75 percent of the population reportedly overweight and nearly a fifth of adults over 50 diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — One of the health lessons drummed into kids’ heads is that proteins are essential nutrients in building strong bodies while providing an important fuel source.

That lesson sticks with a lot of people well into adulthood given how much Americans consume animal protein.

As it happens, the NPD Group found out in a survey that six in 10 respondents eat some kind of animal protein on a daily basis.

Tops on the list compiled by the NPD Group are beef, followed by chicken, fish, pork, shellfish and lamb.

What’s more, at least one in two adults clamors for more protein than what they’re already getting. However, they’re less inclined to turn to dairy products even though health experts say milk, cheese and yogurt and eggs are good sources of the nutrients, not to mention they’re loaded with calcium and many are fortified with Vitamin D.

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Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(BOSTON) — A plane arriving at Boston’s Logan Airport from Dubai was met by a hazmat team Monday after five passengers reportedly displayed flu-like symptoms, according to an official from Massport, which runs the airport.

Pictures on social media showed medical crews in hazmat suits as they arrived at the scene and boarded the plane, Emirates flight 237. The plane was surrounded by ambulances and emergency responders in white and yellow suits.

None of the five sick people had been traveling in West Africa, the official said.

The Boston Public Health Commission said in a statement Monday that it “has determined that the patients who arrived on United Emirates Flight #237 at Logan International Airport do not meet the criteria for any infections of public health concern, including Ebola, meningococcal infection, or MERS.”

The Ebola virus has already killed more than 3,000 people, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

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Credit: James Gathany/Centers for Disease Control and Prevention(DALLAS) — The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Monday that it would deploy a second team to Dallas to help assist the staff at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in infection control and monitoring of those staff members who had contact with Thomas Eric Duncan, the Ebola patient who died last week.

According to a CDC press release, the nine-person team will include experts in infection control, Ebola and infectious diseases, laboratory science, personal protective equipment and hospital epidemiology. The CDC notes that several individuals on the team were involved in either Ebola outbreaks in West Africa or infectious disease outbreaks at other U.S. hospitals.

The deployment comes on the same day that Nina Pham was identified as the second Ebola patient in Dallas. Pham, a nurse, was infected while treating Thomas Eric Duncan at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital.

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shironosov/iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston have replicated human brain cells for use in ongoing Alzheimer’s disease research.

The study, published in the journal Nature, details the work done to create a petri dish with human brain cells that develop telltale structures linked to Alzheimer’s. That breakthrough, researchers say, could be an aid in researching the disease. Until now, they say, the only means of testing drugs to treat Alzheimer’s was by using mice that developed an imperfect form of the disease.

The petri dish is still an imperfect substitute, as it lacks immune system cells and other components of a human brain. Still, it will allow for researchers to quickly, cheaply and easily test drugs that could halt the progress of the disease, according to the New York Times.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — It’s been a while since any member of the Basile family missed school or work for a visit to the doctor.

“We had perfect attendance two years in a row,” said mother Meredith Basile. “No lates. No sick days.”

Instead of waiting in a doctor’s office, she and husband Joe found family physician Dr. Brian Thornburg, who treats them and their two children at their home in Naples, Florida.

Thornburg is one of an estimated 10,000 concierge doctors in the U.S.

For a fee, these doctors offer personalized care and around-the-clock access, often treating their patients at home for everything from a routine checkup to the occasional stitch or two.

On top of their regular health insurance, patients pay Thornburg a $100 monthly fee for whatever home care they might need.

Although critics say the service is only for the rich and famous, ABC News’ consumer health advocate Michelle Katz disagrees. She said there could be hidden savings in concierge medicine.

“They (parents) don’t have to take off work. They don’t have to find babysitters,” Katz said. “They can be in the comfort of their own home.”

Katz estimated how the Basiles saved about $2,000 a year with concierge medicine by following two money-saving tips:

1. Combining checkups. In the Basiles’ case, they pay $100 a month to Thornburg for all of their regular care. Four separate checkups at a doctor’s office would have cost this family $750 even with their insurance.

2. Reducing ER visits.
U.S. families visit emergency rooms on average twice a year at a cost of $1,200 a visit. By saving the Basile family trips to the ER, Thornburg helped them cut their overall healthcare costs.

When their son, Luca, split open his chin on the kitchen counter, Thornburg came to their home and stitched up the wound.

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iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(OMAHA, Neb.) — The freelance cameraman who contracted Ebola while working in Liberia is feeling good enough to tweet Monday that he is “on the road to good health.”

Ashoka Mukpo’s condition improved over the weekend and his Twitter posts mark the first time he has directly addressed the public.

“Back on twitter, feeling like I’m on the road to good health. Will be posting some thoughts this week. Endless gratitude for the good vibes,” he wrote in the first post Monday afternoon.

“Now that I’ve had first hand exp [sic] with this scourge of a disease, I’m even more pained at how little care sick west Africans are receiving,” he wrote. “Be on the lookout for the Ebola Diaries blog coming soon. Will compile material from long-term reporter residents of Liberia.”

Mukpo, 33, is being treated at the Nebraska Medical Center and had a blood transfusion from Dr. Kent Brantly, the first American who contracted the disease while working for a missionary organization in Monrovia. Brantly recovered from the disease.

He has also received an experimental drug called brincidofovir. Thomas Eric Duncan, a Liberian man who was treated unsuccessfully for Ebola at a Texas hospital, received the same drug.

“The team taking care of him in Nebraska now feels he has turned the corner and with time, will make a full recovery,” Mukpo’s relatives said in a statement released to NBC News on Saturday. Mukpo was working for NBC in Liberia when he got sick.

“Ashoka has been steadily improving over the past 48 hours. He has been symptom free during that time and is increasing his physical strength. His appetite has returned and he is asking for food. His spirits are much more uplifted and continue to improve,” the family said.

Shelly Schwedhelm, the nursing director of the bicontainment unit at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told a news conference Monday that Mukpo is improving.

“He’s doing great. Today he’s sitting up and no longer having any nausea or vomiting and feeling pretty good and having some food to eat and so feeling really good about his prognosis and his care,” Schwedhelm said.

The rest of the NBC team that was in Liberia alongside Mukpo have now been ordered into a mandatory isolation period even though the company has said that no one else on the team is showing symptoms.

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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) — A chemical derived from broccoli sprout could help treat symptoms of autism, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins and Harvard hospitals.

The study authors say it is an “intriguing” first step that could lead to a better life for those with autism spectrum disorders, which affect one in 68 children in the United States and currently have no cure or medical treatment.

“If you tell people that you’ve treated autism with broccoli, they would say that that is a very far-fetched idea,” said study author Dr. Paul Talalay, a professor of pharmacology and molecular sciences at Johns Hopkins Hospital.

Talalay and his team treated 40 autistic boys and men with autism over 18 weeks. Twenty-six of them took pills with sulforaphane, a broccoli sprout extract, and the rest received a placebo.

Study authors found that patients who took sulforaphane improved. Almost half of the patients treated with sulforaphane had “much improved” or “very much improved” social interaction and verbal communication, and more than half exhibited less aberrant behavior. When the patients stopped taking the extract, they returned to baseline levels for these symptoms within four weeks.

Those who took the placebo did not show any improvement, according to the study.

Talalay said the way in which this extract might work in autistic patients has yet to be fully understood, but past research suggests that sulforaphane can cause the body to react as it would to a fever. Since fevers have been associated with a temporary improvement of symptoms in about a third of autism patients, sulforaphane may work in a similar way, according to the study authors.

The findings appear in the October issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Autism experts not involved with the research said the findings are encouraging, but cautioned that there are still many unanswered questions.

“The trial needs to be replicated and evaluated in larger and more age-diverse samples,” Dr. Susan Hyman, chief of neurodevelopmental and behavioral pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, said in an email to ABC News. “But the data is certainly worth pursuing.”

Dr. Max Wiznitzer, a pediatric neurologist at UH Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, agreed.

“The results are intriguing because there is an improvement in some of the subjects,” Wiznitzer said. “However, [the authors] have not shown that they have treated the core essence of autism.”

Still, Wiznitzer said these findings would be “fascinating if true.”

“It might give us a whole new group of treatments to use in these individuals,” he said.

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