Ebola ExposureThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently reported that one of its technicians in was placed under observation for possible exposure to the deadly Ebola virus due to a human error. It was found that the Ebola specimen which the worker handled in the less secure BSL-2 lab in Atlanta may have contained live virus that was mistakenly moved from a biosafety level 4 (BSL-4) lab. According to a news report published on December 29, the technician showed no signs of illness, though the CDC announced that the worker is being monitored for 21 days from the date of supposed exposure, the maximum incubation period for the virus.

The CDC reported that the lab was decontaminated for a second time and is now closed. The incident puts lab safety in the spotlight and shows that when deadly viruses are being handled, there is no room for incidents that involve human error.

Rapid diagnostic testing can save lives. Laboratory tests used in diagnosing this deadly virus include IgM ELISA, Polymerase chain reaction (PCR), Immunohistochemistry testing, IgM and IgG antibodies and virus isolation. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved emergency use authorization (EUA) for new tests for detecting the Ebola virus in humans. The tests for which the FDA has granted EUA are

  • BioFire Defense – a test that can detect Ebola in blood or urine samples in 1 hour with the proper lab equipment from the tests’ manufacturer.
  • The LightMix Ebola Zaire rRT-PCR Test – a blood test developed by Roche that can detect the Ebola Zaire virus strain in just over three hours in patients showing symptoms of infection.

Emergency use authorizations by the FDA permit the use of unapproved medical products to deal with life-threatening illnesses when no approved or available alternatives exist.