Super-sensitive Ebola test could curb disease spread

Beijing, Sep 10 (IANS) A new Ebola test which is not only easier to use but also 100 times more sensitive than a test currently in use could help curb the spread of the disease in western Africa, claims a study.

The current outbreak of Ebola affects countries in West Africa.

“In west Africa, resources are under pressure, so complicated, expensive tests are not very helpful,” said one of the study authors Xiyun Yan from the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

“Our new strip test is a simple, one-step test that is cheap and easy to use, and provides a visible signal, which means people do not need training to use it. We think it will be especially helpful in rural areas, where technical equipment and skills are not available,” Yan noted.

Currently there are two ways to test for the Ebola virus: using a method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which makes copies of the molecules for detection, and with antibody-capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA), which gives a visual indication when a given molecule is in a sample.

PCR is very sensitive, but is expensive and complicated, requiring special skills and technical equipment.

The ELISA – or gold strip test – is cheaper but sensitivity is very low, which means it often gives the wrong results.

The new test, called the nanozyme test, uses magnetic nanoparticles, which work like enzymes to make the signal stronger, giving a clearer result you can see with the naked eye.

The Ebola virus causes an acute illness that is deadly in half of all cases, on average.

There is no vaccine for Ebola, so detecting the virus is key to controlling the outbreak: with an accurate diagnosis, patients can be isolated and treated properly, reducing the risk of spread.

The new technology could be applied to the detection of any biological molecules, making it useful to diagnose other infectious diseases, like flu, and potentially detect tumours and even contamination in wastewater, the study said.

The research was published in the journal Biosensors and Bioelectronics.

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