Ebola treatment: Six times faster test to undergo trials in West Africa

  • Reuters, London
  • Updated: Nov 28, 2014 18:42 IST

A new test designed to rapidly diagnose Ebola virus infection is to be tried out at a treatment centre for the disease in Guinea, international health charity The Wellcome Trust said on Friday.

Researchers developing the 15-minute Ebola test say it is six times faster than similar ones currently in use and, if it proves successful, could help medical staff identify and isolate confirmed Ebola patients faster and start treating them sooner.

The trial, led by researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, and funded by Wellcome and the UK government, will use a "mobile suitcase laboratory" -- a portable lab the size of a laptop computer with a solar panel, a power pack and a results reader, which is designed for use in rural areas of poor countries where electricity is often in short supply.

The reagent substances used in the test, which detects the genetic material of the virus, are available as dried pellets that do not need cold storage.

"A reliable, 15-minute test that can confirm cases of Ebola would be a key tool for effective management of the Ebola outbreak," said Wellcome's Val Snewin. "It not only gives patients a better chance of survival, but it prevents transmission of the virus to other people."

Almost 16,000 people have been infected with Ebola in the current outbreak -- centred in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia -- and 5,689 of them have died, according to latest data from the World Health Organization (WHO).

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