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Portable Testing Device Can Detect Ebola At Once

30 April 2016, 10:32 pm EDT By Milafel Dacanay Tech Times
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A new portable Ebola testing device not only produces results at once, but it is also highly accurate and may be designed for diagnosis of other diseases. It may be the lifesaver we've been waiting for.  ( Alban Kakulya/Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne )

There's a new testing device for Ebola, and it's so portable and effective it can serve even the remotest regions.

Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne (EPFL) has just announced the making of a smartphone-sized medical device that can detect Ebola virus in real time even using only a very small amount of blood.

Making areas with very poor health care infrastructure, including Western African nations that were badly hit in the latest outbreak, perform the tests promptly.

"It will prove very useful for medical staff working in resource-limited regions," said Francesco Piraino, lead author of the study about this new device.

Quick detection is one of the essential steps in fighting the Ebola virus, which can turn deadly and spread very quickly. The problem is, in the existing setting, blood samples have to be sent in very limited labs, and the results don't come back within a day or two.

How It Works

This device, which has already been tested in both asymptomatic and symptomatic patients, is an example of a microfluidic instrument that is equipped with silicone rubber and very small channels, so that it needs only a finger-prick-drawn blood.

The concept has already been applied to other types of diagnostics because it is low cost, promotes reduced testing time, and has the capability to detect about 16 biomarkers with high level of accuracy. It can also detect how many RNA copies have been made, which may indicate the extent of the disease.

Moreover, the device features complementary digital and analogue mechanisms in which the latter becomes beneficial in case the concentration of the biomarkers is very high. Further cutting the processing time to only 37 minutes means the sample doesn't have to be pre-treated or separated, which normally happens in conventional testing.

"For researchers, it is quite interesting to be able to avoid having to separate the blood," said Piraino.

The team hopes that with this achievement, the same mechanism or something similar may be adopted for testing other kinds of biomarkers and diseases.

This isn't the first time, though, that someone attempted to create fast Ebola tests. A junior student won the 2015 Google Science Fair award after developing a "pregnancy test for Ebola."

The study is now in Analytical Chemistry.

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