The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the first rapid blood test for Ebola, which is planned for use in remote regions.
The ReEBOK Antigen Rapid Test – developed by US company Corgenix – searches the blood for a different part of the virus. This should allow patients to be identified, isolated and cared for as quickly as possible.
It is less accurate than conventional tests, but takes minutes rather than hours to get a result, and the test also works without electricity, so it can be used in remote places. Current Ebola testing requires a laboratory to analyse the blood fragments of the virus’s genetic material. It could take between 12 and 24 hours to get a definitive answer.
WHO said: ‘While less accurate, the antigen test is rapid, easy to perform and does not require electricity. It can therefore be used at lower healthcare facilities or in mobile units for patients in remote settings.’
WHO added that, where possible, the results from the rapid test should be confirmed by the more precise conventional testing.
Trials of the new blood test in West Africa suggest it has correctly identified about 92% of people who have Ebola.
Dr. Ben Neuman, a lecturer in virology at the University of Reading, said: ‘The new test could help to quickly confirm outbreaks in remote areas without the need to send samples to a testing clinic and wait for results. The new test isn’t about saving the lives of infected people, but it can help in the long run by making it easier and quicker to detect Ebola outbreaks.’