Quick confirmation of a test result that indicates a serious illness is crucial for speedy medical response. The race is now on to develop a finger prick Ebola test. With such a test, Ebola could be confirmed on the spot with just a few drops of blood, doing away with the need for test tube samples that have to be sent to a laboratory.
Faster and easier tests to determine if a person is infected could be vital to control the outbreak of the deadly virus everywhere, especially in West Africa, where there are only few testing laboratories and it takes days for samples to get to them.
Patients need to be isolated as soon as they show symptoms of Ebola. Quick response is also important when it comes to drawing blood and sending off the specimen for testing. The development of a finger prick test will allow early detection and diagnosis which is critical to stemming the spread of Ebola.
- Screening large numbers of people in airports and other ports of entry would be much easier and more cost-effective with a simple finger-stick
- Frontline caregivers can respond more quickly to patients who have to be isolated
- Compared to syringes with long needles for drawing blood, a finger prick test will pose less risk to healthcare personnel
- Quick results will allow better communication about exposure of others to health risks
- Faster results will speed up the efforts to retrace the possible contacts of the infected person and notify the public
Leading companies and the researchers are involved in the quest for a fast and easy test to diagnose Ebola. According to a report published in October, Tulane University researchers are working with the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium based in Sierra Leone to quickly develop a simple finger-stick to detect Ebola proteins. The project was granted $2.9 million in June by the National Institutes of Health and the researchers hope that the FDA will grant emergency authorization for the use of the test when it is ready.
In September, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration gave the Department of Defense fast-track authorization to use a finger-prick test on military personnel, aid workers and emergency responders in labs designated by the military for Ebola testing. The Pentagon’s test examines viral genomes.