According to a BBC report, the total number of reported Ebola cases stood at more than 22,999 in the second week of February, 2015. About 9,268 people were reported as having died from the disease in six countries: Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, the US and Mali.
Delays in confirming Ebola have led to a large number of people being held in isolation centers, where those who are virus-free could become infected. The World Health Organization has now approved the first quick test for Ebola, making it easier and quicker to detect whether a person has been infected with the deadly virus. Instead of hours, the ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test Kit manufactured by Colorado-based Corgenix provides results in 15 minutes. This means that infected persons can receive treatment faster.
According to ABC News, WHO said that the ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test Kit met sufficient quality, safety and performance requirements to allow it to be purchased and distributed by U.N. agencies and aid groups. The test requires much less equipment – just a piece of paper and a test tube – and no electricity. It is similar to a pregnancy test. A drop of blood is placed on the paper and if two lines appear, then it’s positive for Ebola. In the trials conducted, the test correctly identified 92 percent of the patients with the disease and 85 percent of those not infected.
Current gene-based laboratory tests for Ebola are accurate, but results can take between 12 to 24 hours. Also, delays in transporting samples to labs and getting results back can mean a diagnosis takes several days. Instead of testing for the genetic material of the virus – its nucleic acid – the new ReEBOV Antigen Rapid test detects the Ebola protein. It could help to quickly confirm outbreaks in remote areas without the need to send samples to a testing clinic and wait for results.
However, WHO assistant director-general Dr. Bruce Aylward cautions that, "Medical personnel will still need to conduct a backup test when someone tests negative".
A month ago, researchers at the German Primate Center (DPZ) in Goettingen developed Diagnostics-in-a-Suitcase, which contains all the equipment and reagents necessary to detect the Ebola virus within 15 minutes at the point of need. This lab suitcase uses Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RPA) – a technology developed by TwistDx, which works much faster than the PCR (Polymerase Chain Reaction) test. Powered by onboard solar panels and power packs, RPA enables rapid detection of Ebola virus not only out in the field, but also at other points of need such as airports and quarantine stations.