A rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test for the Ebola virus will be trialed in the coming weeks at the Ebola treatment center in Conakry, Guinea, according to a Wellcome Trust media release.
The 15-minute Ebola test is six times faster than similar tests currently in use and aims to speed up the diagnosis of Ebola cases. Early detection of Ebola leads to better infection control as medical staff can identify and isolate confirmed cases of Ebola faster, and start treating patients sooner. Ultimately, a faster test could reduce Ebola transmission and mortality.
The project is supported through a joint Department for International Development (DFID) and Wellcome Trust fund for rapid health research during the Ebola outbreak. The six projects are managed by Enhancing Learning & Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA).
The trial, led by researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, will be deployed using a ‘mobile suitcase laboratory’ which is designed for low-resource settings. The portable laboratory includes a solar panel, a power pack and a results reader which is the size of a small laptop.
The reagents used in the test are available as dried pellets, which are ‘cold-chain-independent’, meaning that they can be used and transported at room temperature. Similarly to the tests currently in use, the new test detects the genetic material of the virus. The pilot trial will test whether the reagents are safe and effective to use with Ebola patients’ blood and saliva samples.
Dr Val Snewin, International Activities Manager at the Wellcome Trust, said: “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. It not only gives patients a better chance of survival, but it prevents transmission of the virus to other people.”
“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.”