As Ebola continues to kill in West Africa, scientists in Senegal have developed a test that can determine in just 15 minutes whether a patient has been infected by the virus. The test is portable, solar powered and removes previous obstacles for a quick diagnosis, making it up to six times faster than the tests currently used.
The research, conducted by the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, is funded by the Wellcome Trust charity, and the British government.
“A reliable, 15-minute test that can confirm cases of Ebola would be a key tool for effective management of the Ebola outbreak—allowing patients to be identified, isolated and cared for as soon as possible,” said Dr Val Snewin of the Wellcome Trust in a statement. “It not only gives patients a better chance of survival, but it prevents transmission of the virus to other people.”
Researchers from the Pasteur Institute will conduct trials in the next few weeks at an Ebola treatment center in Conakry, the capital of Guinea. The virus has caused nearly 5,500 deaths this year, according to the Center For Disease Control and Prevention, with 1,214 in Guinea alone.
The test has two main advantages over the traditional diagnosis method, which tracks Ebola genes in the patient’s blood. One is that it can be used in room temperature, whereas the current test requires a cold environment. Another is that it is portable, a ’mobile suitcase laboratory’ powered by solar panels.
“This pilot study is particularly promising because researchers have considered how to make the test suitable for use in remote field hospitals, where resources—such as electricity and cold storage—are often in short supply,” said Snewin.