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The new tool, developed by France’s Atomic Energy Commission, could allow doctors to diagnose a patient with suspected Ebola in under 15 minutes.
France’s Atomic Energy Commission said that the device, which has undergone trials at a high-security for validating the technique and prototype, would be available in Ebola-hit countries by the end of October for a clinical trial.
It further added that the tool, not yet approved by regulators, works by monoclonal antibodies reacting to the presence of virus in a tiny sample, which can be a drop of blood, plasma or urine.
French pharmaceutical company Vedalab is turning the process into a user-friendly kit called Ebola eZYSCREEN. Similar to a DIY pregnancy test, a positive result sees a small stripe showing up in a results window on the hand-held device.
The kit is simple to use in the field without any additional equipment, said the CEA, which also does non-nuclear research with a possible military or security application.
Scientists at the agency began working on the diagnostic tool in mid-August, when the epidemic in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone worsened. The achievement builds on previous Ebola research funded in part by the French defence ministry as part of its anti-bioterrorism programme.
This research had “saved more than a year” in development time of the diagnostic test, the CEA said. Other pharmaceutical teams are also working on fast diagnostic tools for Ebola.
They include Primerdesign, a spinoff company of Britain’s University of Southampton, and Corgenix Medical Corp of the United States. The test is for the so-called Zaire ebolavirus, the strain now circulating in West Africa.