By Glynn Cosker
Editor, In Homeland Security
British health charity The Wellcome Trust announced Friday that a new 15-minute Ebola virus test will become available on a trial basis in Guinea where more than 1,200 people have died from the disease since March. Dakar’s Pasteur Institute plans to conduct the trials in Guinea’s capital city of Conakry.
The announcement coincides with French President Francois Hollande’s visit to in Conakry. Hollande is the first Western leader to set foot in any of the Ebola-stricken nations in Africa.
Speedy and accurate diagnosis of the Ebola virus disease is vital in the hot zones of West Africa, and the new test diagnoses the disease up to six times faster than other methods used in the region. Along with treating patients, prompt isolation of infected people is a primary goal of health workers hoping to curtail the worst outbreak of Ebola in history.
The Wellcome Trust refers to its test kit as a “mobile suitcase laboratory”—a solar-powered pack roughly the size of a laptop, ideal for regions with limited access to electricity. The test detects Ebola’s genetic substances via dried pellets with the added benefit of not requiring a cold environment.
“A reliable, 15-minute test that can confirm cases of Ebola would be a key tool for effective management of the Ebola outbreak,” said a Wellcome Trust representative Val Snewin. “It not only gives patients a better chance of survival, but it prevents transmission of the virus to other people. 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.”
Nearly 16,000 people have been infected with the Ebola virus in Africa’s current outbreak and 5,689 of them have died, according to estimates from the World Health Organization (WHO).
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