SYDNEY, Oct 17 (Reuters) - Australian biotech firm CSL Ltd , the world's second-biggest blood products maker, said on Friday it's working on a plasma product to treat Ebola following a request from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, part of a growing commercial response to the deadly outbreak.
The Australian government has faced criticism from political opponents for refusing to send medical personnel to West Africa where Ebola has killed nearly 4,500 people and for donating just A$18 million ($15.7 million) to help fight the worst outbreak of the disease since the 1970s.
But the country's private sector has been stepping up its involvement in what is slowly becoming a coordinated global response of governments, non-governmental organisations and private companies.
CSL spokeswoman Sharon McHale told Reuters that the charity of Microsoft Corp founder Bill Gates asked it to "explore if we can develop a plasma product for Ebola treatment".
Under the process being proposed by CSL, blood plasma would be collected from people who have recovered from Ebola. Scientists would then extract antibodies from the plasma to produce a "hyper-immune" product to be transfused into patients, said McHale.
"We're hopeful of being able to help but it's still early days," she said.
Along with CSL, Sydney-listed protective products maker Ansell Ltd, the world's largest surgical gloves maker, said it is talking to health authorities about supplying virus-killing gloves in the fight against the disease.
Ansell is talking with the organisations like the United Nations, Medecins Sans Frontieres and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about using its antimicrobial surgical gloves in the cleanup of potential Ebola-affected areas, chief executive officer Magnus Nicolin told Reuters in a telephone interview.
The Ansell antimicrobial surgical gloves cannot be used to treat Ebola patients because they have not yet been tested against that disease, and are not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for surgical purposes, he added.
"What we can do is in non-patient related activity, sanitation, janitorial supplies, the cleaning that will clean out an aircraft after a flight," Nicolin said.
"We haven't been able to test it with live Ebola because you're not allowed to play around with a live Ebola virus, but we do know that it's fully tested against similar viruses," he said.
1 US dollar = 1.1443 Australian dollar Editing by Kenneth Maxwell