British researchers announce trials in Guinea of new 15-minute test for Ebola

Dec. 1, 2014

A rapid, point-of-care diagnostic test for the Ebola virus will undergo clinical trials in the coming weeks at the Ebola treatment center in Conakry, Guinea. The trial is one of six health research projects that have been jointly funded by the Wellcome Trust and the government of the United Kingdom.

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. Wellcome Trust officials note that 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 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, PhD, International Activities Manager at the Wellcome Trust, says, “A reliable, 15-minute test that can confirm cases of Ebola would be a key tool for effective management of the Ebola outbreak. 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.” Learn more from the Wellcome Trust news release.

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