A blood test for the Ebola virus that could detect the disease in a matter of minutes was found to be as accurate as the most widely used test available, scientists reported Friday. The new rapid diagnostic test (RDT), called Corgenix ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test kit, requires only a drop of blood and can be used on-site to check whether someone is infected with the disease.
An accurate, reliable RDT would be immensely useful for health officials working in infected areas because it lets health workers reduce waiting time and quickly isolate infected individuals.
In a study of 106 Ebola patients in Sierra Leone, researchers tested the new tool and the currently used laboratory procedure. They found that both tests detected Ebola in all the patients, and the RDT did so faster. The results of the scientists’ study were published in the journal, the Lancet.
“Although the RDT requires refrigeration, this is already available in many health centers in endemic areas, particularly those that store vaccines and other medical products,” Jana Broadhurst, the study’s co-author, said in a statement.
The currently used procedure requires patients to be isolated in “holding” areas while awaiting test results. The researchers pointed out that during this time, someone who did not have the disease might be exposed to it. "Simplifying the process and speeding up diagnosis could have a major impact," Nira Pollock, associate medical director of the Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at Boston Children's Hospital and the study’s senior author, said, according to HealthDay.
The Ebola epidemic has spread rapidly through West Africa in over a year, with more than 27,000 reported cases and 11,000 deaths. Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, but the number of cases has spiked in nearby Guinea and Sierra Leone.