Simple and rapid test for Ebola diagnosis could improve outbreak control

December 12, 2018

David Sebba and colleagues have created a point-of-care diagnostic test that, in fewer than 30 minutes, distinguishes Ebola infections from other endemic diseases that share similar initial symptoms, such as Lassa fever and malaria. Their technology offers a simple diagnostic tool that could streamline the detection and management of Ebola epidemics in low-resource settings. The 2014 West African Ebola outbreak - the most widespread Ebola epidemic in history - was responsible for over 11,000 deaths, and the ongoing Ebola outbreak in Congo is the second-largest in history and continues to grow, highlighting the persistent danger this disease poses to public health. Although researchers have developed an effective vaccine, Ebola remains difficult to detect because it initially mimics the symptoms of other fever-causing diseases like Lassa fever and malaria. What's more, Ebola epidemics tend to occur in regions that lack laboratory infrastructure and trained lab personnel. Here, Sebba et al. developed a portable test for diagnosing Ebola designed for use in remote settings. Their assay, which is based on a protein detection technology known as SERS, works by adding a small sample of blood to vials containing dried reagents, which delivers results in about 30 minutes. The platform does not require cold temperature storage and can be used in areas that lack electricity. After testing their device in monkey models, the scientists conducted field tests in Senegal and Guinea on 586 clinical samples and saw the diagnostic demonstrated strong sensitivity for Ebola infections and excellent sensitivity for malaria. They caution further testing is required, but say that the technology could enable more timely diagnosis of these diseases during outbreaks.

American Association for the Advancement of Science

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