The current outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in West Africa has caused fear and panic all over the world, which led a British company to develop a simple and fast diagnostic test for screening of possibly infected persons.
Primerdesign Ltd., said to be a spin-off firm from the University of Southampton, developed the affordable and easy-to-perform Ebola diagnostic kit particularly for the 2012 outbreak.
“Accurate diagnostics is essential in controlling an outbreak like Ebola. There is an urgent need for rapid testing to screen suspected patients and people travelling in and out of the region,” Primerdesign managing director Dr. Jim Wicks said in a statement.
The company said that all viruses have a unique genetic fingerprint, the same way people do. For humans, this is encoded in the DNA. The Ebola virus, meanwhile, makes use of ribonucleic acid (RNA).
The said Ebola test kit works by detecting specifically the RNA of the virus in the blood sample of a patient. This means that even the smallest amounts of the lethal disease now can be identified in its early stages, making way for preventive health care intervention.
The diagnostic kit for the Ebola virus starts by taking a blood sample from the patient. The RNA is then extracted following a few easy steps. The RNA is put in a tube along with the kit ingredients. The tube goes into a machine for analysis, which would be completed in 90 minutes.
After finishing development work the past few days, Primerdesign is said to meet with the World Health Organization to discuss possible plans of putting big quantities of such diagnostic tests in West Africa within the fastest possible time.
As of Oct. 10, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recorded 8,400 cases of Ebola, of which 4,033 led to deaths of infected patients. The number of laboratory-confirmed cases is 4,656.
Countries with widespread transmissions are Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea. Other countries with recent recorded minimal transmissions via travel are the U.S., Senegal, Spain, and Nigeria.
The CDC considers the 2014 Ebola epidemic as the “largest in history.”
Primerdesign specializes in real-time PCR, a technology that is based on the DNA testing technology similarly used in the CSI television hit series. Real-time PCR is a form of polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in molecular biology where data are collected in real time, as the reaction proceeds. The company has deployed also the same technology for the latest horsemeat scandal in the U.K. It also has been known for developing the first-ever detection kit for swine flu during the outbreak in 2009.