UK researchers develop simple, cheap, fast Ebola test

15 October 2014

Researchers in the UK claim to have have developed a fast, simple and affordable blood test to detect and diagnose the Ebola virus, specifically in relation to the worst-ever outbreak of the disease this year.

UK researchers develop simple, cheap, fast Ebola testWith the current epidemic of Ebola virus in West Africa, scientists have been racing to provide an easy-to-use, affordable solution for screening suspect Ebola patients. Now high-tech British company Primerdesign Ltd, a spin-off of the University of Southampton, claims to have led the way with a fast and simple diagnostic test.

"Accurate diagnostics is essential in controlling an outbreak like Ebola. There is an urgent need for rapid testing to screen suspected patients and people travelling in and out of the region," said Dr Jim Wicks, managing director of Primerdesign.

"Our test is quick, affordable and easy to perform."

The test can detect even minute quantities of the disease in the early stages, allowing for pre-emptive health-care intervention, the researchers said.

Primerdesign is in discussions with the World Health Organisation (WHO) to possibly put large numbers of these tests on the frontline in West Africa as quickly as possible.

"Viruses have a unique genetic fingerprint the same as we do. Ours is encoded in DNA but the Ebola virus uses RNA (Ribonucleic acid). So the kit is designed to specifically detect the Ebola RNA in a patient blood sample," researchers said.

To conduct the test, a blood sample is taken from a patient and RNA is extracted using a few simple steps. The RNA is then placed in a tube with kit ingredients. The tube is inserted into the machine and analysis completes within 90 minutes.

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