LONDON: A simple paper strip similar to a pregnancy test can now diagnose Ebola in less than 10 minutes besides viral haemorrhagic fevers like yellow fever and dengue.
Unlike most existing paper diagnostics, which test for only one disease, the new strips are color-coded so they can be used to distinguish among several diseases.
The researchers used triangular nanoparticles, made of silver, that can take on different colors depending on their size. They created red, orange and green nanoparticles and linked them to antibodies that recognize Ebola, dengue fever and yellow fever. As a patient’s blood serum flows along the strip, any viral proteins that match the antibodies painted on the stripes will get caught and those nanoparticles will become visible. This can be seen by the naked eye; for those who are colour-blind, a cell phone camera could be used to distinguish the colours.
Scientists from MIT say that when diagnosing a case of Ebola, time is of the essence. However, existing diagnostic tests take at least a day or two to yield results, preventing health care workers from quickly determining whether a patient needs immediate treatment and isolation.
Currently, the only way to diagnose Ebola is to send patient blood samples to a lab that can perform advanced techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), which can detect genetic material from the Ebola virus.