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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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An enzyme has been identified to stop Ebola infection

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An enzyme has been identified to stop Ebola infection
An enzyme has been identified to stop Ebola infection. wikimedia commons

London, Dec 30, 2017: Raising hope for an effective drug to treat people with Ebola virus, researchers have found that an enzyme could help prevent the deadly virus from spreading.

The enzyme takes away the virus’ ability to copy itself and thus produce more virus particles and more infection, said the study published in the journal Molecular Cell.

‘When the Ebola virus enters the human cell, its only purpose is to copy itself, fast. First it must copy all its proteins, then its genetic material,” said Jakob Nilsson, Professor at University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

“But by inhibiting a specific enzyme we rob the Ebola virus of its ability to copy itself. And that may potentially prevent an Ebola infection from spreading,” Nilsson said.

There is currently no available treatment for Ebola virus infection.

However, the researchers behind the new study found what is called a new host factor for Ebola virus.

It can be described as a small part of the host’s — for example the human body’s — own cells, which the Ebola virus uses to copy itself and produce more infection.

The virus uses the host factor enzyme PP2A-B56 to start producing proteins.

So when PP2A-B56 is switched off, the virus’ ability to copy itself and produce more infection is stopped.

“When we inhibit the PP2A-B56 enzyme, we remove the first link in a long process, which ends with Ebola spreading. And we can tell that it works,” Nilsson said.

“The Ebola infection in cell cultures where we have inhibited the PP2A-B56 enzyme is 10 times smaller after 24 hours compared to infections where we have not inhibited this enzyme,” Nilsson added.

But because the researchers have so far focused on cell cultures, there is still work to be done before their results can be used to treat people infected with Ebola.

Initially the researchers hope to be able to test it on animals and, in the long term, develop a drug that inhibits the relevant enzyme. (IANS)

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