A Portable, Solar-Powered, 15-Minute Ebola Test



This article is part three of our ongoing series covering innovations in the fight against Ebola. For more in this series, click here.


_79361061_ebola_virusFifteen minutes. The time it takes you to go through your emails. The ideal length of a power nap. The time required for an Ebola diagnosis?

A 15 minute point-of-care diagnostic test is being trialled at the Senegal Ebola treatment centre in Conakry, Guinea, led by Director Dr. Amadou Alpha Sall. The test has the potential to dramatically speed up the diagnosis of Ebola cases – it is six times faster than similar tests currently in use. With quicker identification and detection, medical staff can isolate and treat patients sooner, preventing transmission of the virus and increasing the patient’s chance of survival.

A fast diagnosis also creates space in hospitals and clinics, a priority for both Ebola patients and all others seeking healthcare. The outbreak has drastically reduced available space for children to receive vaccinations or be treated for common illnesses, or for pregnant women to safely deliver their babies. [1]

There are additional distinct advantages of this test over those currently in use. It is deployed in a mobile suitcase laboratory – ideal for remote field hospitals and low-resource settings. The kit includes a solar panel, a power pack and a results reader the size of a small laptop. The reagents are in a cold chain independent pellet form – in other words, they can be used and transported at room temperature. Meanwhile, current diagnoses take several hours and require specialized equipment and laboratories.

resize 13616 Institut Pasteur Main Proposal glove boxAt the Ebola treatment centre in Conakry, it will be determined whether the reagents are safe and effective to use with blood and saliva samples by running the test alongside existing methods. Similar to these current diagnostic methods, the test detects the genetic material of the virus.[2] The centre itself is managed by Médicins Sans Frontières, the Institut National de Santé Publique, and the Projet de Fièvres Hémorragiques de Guinée.

The test was developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Arbovirus and Viral Hemorrhagic Fever at the Institut Pasteur de Dakar (IPD) in Senegal. The IPD is a private, non-profit foundation that works to prevent and treat diseases, mainly those of infectious origin. It counts among its current and previous scientists 10 Nobel laureates.[3]

The test will be a welcome development in Guinea, a country that has already had lost 1654 people and had 2630 infected with Ebola as of the end of 2014. According to estimates by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the worldwide death toll reached 7708, with 19729 infections last year. [4]

The test is one of six projects co-funded by the Wellcome Trust and the UK Department for International Development (DFID), under the Research for Health in Humanitarian Crises (R2HC) programme. To help combat the Ebola outbreak, R2HC launched an emergency research call for projects that can improve the effectiveness of the response to the current outbreak, while drawing lessons for future communicable disease outbreaks.[5] The projects are managed by Enhancing Learning & Research for Humanitarian Assistance (ELRHA) and have been provided with £1.8 million in funding, with £500 000 specifically for diagnostic test. [6]

For more information on this and the other projects within the RCHC programme, visit the ELRHA website.



[1] http://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/even-west-africans-who-dont-catch-ebola-are-being-hurt-disease-180953090/?no-ist

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/nov/28/15-minute-ebola-test-guinea-africa

[3] http://www.pasteur.fr/en/institut-pasteur/about-us

[4] http://www.cdc.gov/vhf/ebola/outbreaks/2014-west-africa/case-counts.html

[5] http://elrha.org/work/R2HC

[6] http://www.ukcds.org.uk/resources/ebola-research-database

Rachel Pott

Rachel Pott

Rachel Pott is a writer, teacher and human rights advocate from Peterborough, Canada.

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