A joint team of researchers from the Boston Children’s Hospital, Partners in Health, and Harvard Medical School have designed an on-the-spot Ebola test that can detect the virus in a matter of minutes.
Clinicians hope that the new test will help aid workers better tackle the disease especially in countries that it had gone epidemic. Its developers explained that there is virtually no difference between the results shown by conventional methods and the results of the new test.
A study on the finding was published this week in the medical journal The Lancet.
In Africa, the Ebola outbreak had been contained but it may have an outburst at any moment. Over the course of one week an extra 24 cases were confirmed in Sierra Leone and Guinea, the two of the countries most ravaged by the disease.
Conventional testing methods require laboratories and blood samples that contain a high amount of the Ebola virus. But since African countries lack basic health infrastructure the samples must be shipped to the countries that do have the necessary laboratories, which poses a huge health risk for both aid workers and the recipient countries.
Moreover, the results may take days, so doctors won’t be able to treat the patients who display Ebola symptoms out of fear that it may be a different disease.
The on the fly diagnostic tool was called ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test, and it requires just a drop of blood from the patient’s fingertip to tell whether they have the disease or not. About 284 blood samples were analyzed with the device and results were backed by laboratory analysis.
Researchers reported a 100 percent accuracy rate of the tool for the genuine Ebola infections, but it had a few false positive results.
The rapid test has another advantage – it doesn’t require syringes or needles that can easily infect aid workers. Instead it is equipped with a safety lancet that prevents unnecessary infections.
Researchers that their rapid Ebola test is very similar to a pregnancy test – the droplet of blood is placed on a special strip which changes color on a specific location if the patient is infected with Ebola.
But the team cautioned that the new test needs to be employed on the field especially in African rural clinics where aid workers need to wear protective equipment and are forbidden to take notes for fear of contamination. The team recommends that one person performs the test while another should very the strip. And if both disagree a third should step in.
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