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A 15-Minute Test to Diagnose Ebola Is Going Into Use in West Africa

Speeding up detection would help everyone get where they need to be

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smithsonian.com

In Ebola-striken West Africa one of biggest hurdles to combating the viral outbreak is a lack of hospital space. A new experimental diagnostic test that can give an “infected” or “not” answer six times faster than existing methods could cut down triage time and help hospitals cope.

Right now, diagnosing a patient with Ebola takes at least a few hours and requires specialized equipment, says the BBC, such as “dedicated laboratories that can keep the components of the test at very low temperatures.” But a new experimental diagnostic test that needs little more than a suitcase and a laptop can give a result in just 15 minutes, and could even be used out in the field where electricity, let alone fancy laboratory equipment, can be in short supply.

Designed by researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Senegal, says Reuters, the test is set to go into use on a trial bases at an Ebola treatment center in Conakry, Guinea. The new test will be run alongside the existing methods in a bid to assess the new test's ability to detect the virus.

Having a faster answer to the question of whether a patient is infected with Ebola or not could help hospital workers either get them into isolation, or get them out the door, much more quickly. After all, as Smart News has noted before, it's not just Ebola victims who are suffering from overcrowded hospitals—the burden on the system is making it difficult for children to get their vaccinations or for women to give birth in a healthcare setting.

About Colin Schultz
Colin Schultz

Colin Schultz is a freelance science writer and editor based in Toronto, Canada. He blogs for Smart News and contributes to the American Geophysical Union. He has a B.Sc. in physical science and philosophy, and a M.A. in journalism.

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