Quick, cheap Ebola tests could be key to halting virus

Sources: The Daily Share (HLN TV), USA Today.com

…Three Americans have been infected (with the Ebola virus) — and…the World Health Organization warned that the number could shoot up to 10,000 people per week (yes, per week) by December. That’s 10 times the current rate of infection…

(T)he real answer to stopping Ebola? “Diagnostics certainly plays a central role in stemming the spread of Ebola,” says Anurag Mairal, the global program leader for PATH (Program for Appropriate Technology in Health), a humanitarian organization.

Though humanitarian organizations and governments have spent or committed more than $1 billion on the epidemic so far, diagnostics are nowhere near the top of their lists.

With (the) $20,000 standard qPCR Ebola testing machine…in short supply (reportedly fewer than a dozen in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone combined) and a lag between testing and results, quick, cheap Ebola tests could seriously stanch the disease’s spread…

(T)he qPCR’s sleeker, faster rival, the Q16…(made by) PrimerDesign… is comparatively cheap at $6,000, and weighs less than 5 pounds, which makes diagnosis possible even in remote, rural areas. Results take 90 minutes, but the best part is this:

The Q16 can diagnose the virus within five days of infection, weeks before patients start showing symptoms…It’s slated to test live human samples soon.

Then there’s Selim Unlu, nanotechnologist, and his team at Boston University. Their invention…draws blood “straight from the vein,” dabs it on a silicon chip and shines a single-colored LED through it. The Ebola-specific particles appear as bright dots on the chip, if present. Like the PrimerDesign machine, it will be able to detect Ebola in asymptomatic patients…(H)is nanotechnology machine will take at least six months to hit the market.

Anurag Mairal notes that authorities in developed countries didn’t kick into high gear with research until it became clear that Ebola could reach them, too. In the future, ways will be needed to better incorporate diagnostics into the health care system instead of “simply rolling out new technology when an outbreak occurs.”

Official World Health Organization Ebola Virus Info
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