Quicker Ebola Test Method In The Works

By Dr. Mallika Marshall, WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) – Ebola testing can take hours and is only performed by labs that are trained to do it, but local researchers are working on a test that could identify Ebola in less than an hour and could be performed by almost anyone.

Why does it take so long to figure out if a person has Ebola?  Current tests take about four hours, but after adding sample collection and transport, sometimes results aren’t ready for more than day.

Researchers at the Wyss Institute at Harvard University are working on a faster test that would use a patient’s blood or saliva and a simple piece of blotting paper.

“Our test detects Ebola within an hour within a lab application with the goal that it’s field-able,” Dr. Keith Pardee, one of the lead researchers said.

“Field-able,” meaning it wouldn’t require a fancy lab or special personnel and therefore could be performed in the field, in Ebola-ravaged areas with little resources.

“Our system works without power, doesn’t require infrastructure, equipment or skilled technicians,” Dr. Pardee explained.  “So the potential is that a person could give themselves this test down the road.”

The goal is so people can test themselves for not only Ebola, but for a whole host of other infections. Once perfected, this same test could be programmed to identify any new infectious disease that might emerge in the future. It can also programmed quickly to detect infections we haven’t even heard of yet, as well as ones that we’re very familiar with.

“It could distinguish between, say, if you wake up in the morning with a cold. It could potentially tell you the difference between having a bacterial infection or a viral infection, like the flu,” Dr. Pardee told WBZ.

This could cut down on antibiotic resistance.

Dr. Pardee said the research is still in its infancy but they hope to have an Ebola test ready for market within a year and a half, a test that could eventually be used almost anywhere, by almost anyone and for only pennies apiece.

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