Stirling professor develops low-cost ebola test

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Dr. Manfred Weidman. Image courtesy of The University of Stirling

Virology Professor Manfred Weidman from the Aquaculture department at The University of Stirling has helped develop a brand new, low-cost kit to detect the deadly disease.

The suit-case sized laboratory uses a patient’s saliva sample to detect the virus within an hour. It has been successfully trialled three times in pilot projects in Senegal and Guinea.

According to Dr. Weidman there are more than 25 laboratories in West Africa using different methods to detect Ebola. His rapid detection kit uses a method called recombinase polymerase amplification which compared to the results of two other tests, shows that it is reliable and can be used without the need for a confirmatory test.

This new system, he explains, is more affordable than the “difficult to establish and expensive to maintain” robotic testing systems that doctors have been using.

“Our project has successfully developed and deployed a low-cost mobile laboratory using a rapid, highly sensitive and specific assay which can be stored at room temperature and operated by local teams with its own energy supply”.

The test also appears to outperform a widely used World Health Organisation recommended test.

Dr. Weirdman has also developed a range of other tests to identify other viruses in order to enable earlier treatment. These new developments come at a crucial time as Mosquito-borne virsuses affect high numbers of people at a much faster pace than Ebola, and outbreaks of Rift Valley Fever and the dengue virus have recently erupted in West Africa.

“The system represents real progress in the quest to take the laboratory into the field. Our molecular test platform can be adapted to other infectious agents so these mobile laboratories are a sustainable solution for diagnosis of infectious disease in the region and elsewhere.

They will remain in Guinea and Senegal to be used after all the expert teams which have provided laboratory testing in the Ebola disease crisis have left.”

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