The size of a cell phone, it could become the point-of-care detection kit for Ebola in the future!

By Johannes Van Zijl on April 27, 2016

The size of a cell phone, it could become the point-of-care detection kit for Ebola in the future!

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the Ebola virus epidemic is under control for the time being However, the possibility of future outbreaks still lingers.

A major challenge scientists experienced during one of the world’s worst outbreaks of Ebola in 2013 and 2015 was delays in detecting the virus in infected individuals residing in remote parts of Africa. Current monitoring techniques require laboratories and trained scientists, but a new hand-held device could increase how rapidly the tests can be performed.

Currently, scientists first have to take blood samples, store them in cooled containers, and then send the samples to specialized laboratories where the detection is completed. During the test, scientists use a method called reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction, or RT-PCR, to detect the Ebola virus. This process usually takes several hours to reveal the results, and in many cases, these laboratories are also located far from where the patient lives, delaying the whole detection and treatment process.

Now, scientists report in the journal Analytical Chemistry, that a handheld device can be used to detect the Ebola virus much faster than the conventional testing method.

The new instrument makes use of the same detection method, RT-PCR, but the process takes less than 37 minutes and requires only a small amount of blood, which can be retrieved from a single finger prick.

The scientists believe the new device could be used in the future should Ebola strike again. With the help of the device, health workers will be able to rapidly track down infected patients so they can receive immediate treatment.

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