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New test to detect ‘Ebola virus’ infection within minutes

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New York: In a major development in the fight against the deadly Ebola virus, a new test has been shown to accurately detect within minutes if an individual is infected by the virus.

This new rapid diagnostic test (RDT) could cut back on the lengthy process usually required to confirm if a patient has Ebola Virus Disease (EVD) or not, help identify case contacts and ultimately curb the spread of Ebola, said the study published in the journal, The Lancet.

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The study is the first to show that a point-of-care EVD test (ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test; Corgenix) is faster  and as sensitive as a conventional laboratory-based molecular method used for clinical testing during the recent outbreak in Sierra Leone.

“Laboratory results can sometimes take days. Delays like this, result not only in the failure to diagnose and treat Ebola-infected patients, but also in individuals without Ebola being admitted to holding units where they may be subsequently infected with the virus,” said senior study author Nira Pollock from Boston Children’s Hospital, US.

“This test, on the other hand, is capable of detecting the Ebola virus in just a small drop of blood tested at the bedside and could help us in the fight against Ebola.”

Currently, diagnosis of EVD requires a full vial of venous blood to be shipped to a laboratory with a high level of biosafety and staff expertise for testing by real-time Reverse Transcription Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR).

In this study, researchers compared the diagnostic accuracy of the new RDT against the benchmark RT-PCR test (altona Diagnostics) being used for clinical diagnosis in the field reference laboratory run by Public Health England at Port Loko in Sierra Leone.

The study involved 106 suspected Ebola patients admitted to two treatment centres in Sierra Leone during February 2015 who were tested by both RDT (performed on a finger stick blood sample at the point-of-care) and by standard RT-PCR (performed on plasma in the laboratory).

The rapid diagnostic test detected all confirmed cases of EVD that were found positive by the benchmark method, with sensitivity of 100 percent (identifying all patients with EVD as per the benchmark method) and a specificity of 92 percent (identifying patients who did not have EVD).

(IANS)

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Daylight Turns Plastic Sheet into Germ-Killing Material

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A health worker sprays a colleague with disinfectant during a training session for Congolese health workers to deal with Ebola virus in Kinshasa, Oct. 21, 2014. The process of removing the full-body protective suit is a prime opportunity for infection if the surface of the gear is contaminated. VOA

Daylight-powered microbe-killing masks and suits may someday help protect health workers from deadly germs like Ebola, according to new research.

Scientists have developed membranes that produce a tiny bit of disinfecting hydrogen peroxide when exposed to light. They could find their way into food packaging as well, the researchers say, helping cut down on foodborne diseases.

The research is published in the journal Science Advances.

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“If there’s any live bacteria or virus on the surface, it’s still transmissible and could cause infection,” said University of California, Davis, researcher Gang Sun. Pexels

Nearly 500 health workers died during the 2014 Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Front-line caregivers wear full-body protective suits when they come into contact with patients with virulent diseases, but the process of removing the gear is a prime opportunity for infection if the surface is contaminated.

Sun and colleagues developed membranes that could line the outside of that protective gear. When exposed to daylight, molecules on the surface of these membranes react with oxygen in the air to produce small amounts of hydrogen peroxide — less than what you’d use to remove laundry stains, but enough to kill germs, according to Sun.

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“The approach is quite novel,” said University of Maryland food scientist Rohan Tikekar, who was not involved with this research. He says others have developed materials that produce disinfecting chemicals, but most only work under high-energy ultraviolet light. Pexels

ALSO READ: “Plastic Ocean”: The Film focusses on Plastics in the Oceans that is harming Marine Life

The new membrane also works in the dark, for at least an hour or two, thanks to chemical properties that recharge its germ-killing powers.

“That is a really significant improvement,” Tikekar added.

In addition to coating protective gear for health workers, Sun says adding a layer of this material to fresh-produce packaging could reduce contamination and prolong storage life.

Some versions of the material use natural compounds. Sun says one of the next steps is to make it edible. VOA

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