An Ebola test that can detect the disease in a matter of minutes could provide great hope for areas of Africa stricken with the outbreaks. The ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test, developed by pharmaceutical developer Corgenix, could provide a new means of combating the highly-dangerous illness.
Harvard Medical School researchers, together with colleagues from Boston Children's Hospital and Partners in Health examined the test. Analysis of the testing procedure took place at two treatment centers in Sierra Leone. A total of 106 patients suspected of having the disease were tested, using a fingertip blood test. These results were then compared with standard laboratory tests. Researchers found the procedure is just as accurate as traditional methods at diagnosing the illness. All the cases of Ebola recorded through traditional analysis was also recorded by the new testing method. There were also few false positives recorded using the new, faster testing procedure.
While current testing requires doctors to send blood samples out to laboratories for analysis, the new test can be performed at the patient's bedside. One of the hazards of older testing methods was that blood from patients, potentially contaminated with Ebola, needed to be shipped to testing facilities, posing a risk of exposure during travel. Laboratory testing takes several days to complete, so the new tests could allow treatment to begin sooner for patients diagnosed with the disease, possibly increasing survival rates.
"These obstacles and delays prevent timely diagnosis and treatment, and also result in individuals without Ebola being admitted to holding units where they may become infected with the virus," the Harvard Medical School researchers reported.
The new test resembles a home pregnancy test. Once the blood is drawn, using a spring-loaded needle that retracts after piercing the skin, the liquid is placed on a strip or treated strip. If the test is positive, a colored line appears at a specific location on the testing pad.
Ebola strikes areas of Africa in waves, and the epidemic that took place between 20014 and 2015 was the most serious season ever for the deadly disease. Over 16,800 people fell ill with the disease, of which more than 11,900 cases were confirmed by laboratory testing. Over 6,400 people died of the disease worldwide during this latest epidemic. Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia, all located in the western region of Africa, were the hardest hit by the deadly disease.
The 2014-2015 Ebola season has greatly abated, but a couple dozen patients in Sierra Leone and elsewhere are still ill.
Testing of the new detection method for Ebola was profiled in the journal The Lancet.
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