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Speedy test created to tackle Ebola

Published 26/06/2015

A new Ebola test has been developed which avoids the need to take blood samples
A new Ebola test has been developed which avoids the need to take blood samples

A new test that can diagnose Ebola in minutes is expected to play a major role in containing the deadly disease.

The ReEBOV bedside test is as sensitive as the conventional laboratory-based method used during the recent Ebola outbreak in Sierra Leone, say scientists.

Using a drop of blood from a fingerprick, it works in a similar way to a home pregnancy test. The sample is applied to a treated strip which produces a coloured line if a person is infected with the virus.

The new test avoids the long delays and risks associated with conventional blood sample analysis, which often takes several days.

While waiting for results, healthy individuals may end up being admitted to holding units where they can become infected.

Dr Nira Pollock, from Boston Children's Hospital in the US, who led a trial of the test reported in The Lancet medical journal, said: "Simplifying the process and speeding up diagnosis could have a major impact."

A field trial of the test, developed by the US company Corgenix, took place at two treatment centres run by the Ministry of Health and Sanitation in Sierra Leone.

A total of 106 patients suspected of having Ebola were given the fingerprick test and also had their blood analysed the normal way.

Every case of Ebola confirmed in the laboratory using the standard procedure was detected by the bedside test, with very few non-infected people wrongly testing positive.

However both tests failed to pick up a small number of Ebola cases that were identified by an alternative ultra-sensitive lab test which is not widely available.

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