Fast paper test detects three diseases at once

Published on August 25, 2015   ·   No Comments


Copyright: Jose Gomez-Marquez, Helena de Puig, and Chun-Wan Yen​
A quick, paper-based blood test which can simultaneously detect the Ebola, dengue and yellow fever viruses has shown promising results in tests, say researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States.

The device, which looks similar to a commercial pregnancy test and comes with a US$5 price tag, was presented at a conference of the American Chemical Society last week (18 August).

“This could help health authorities to identify and confirm disease outbreaks in rural areas.”

Hamad-Schifferli, Mercy Corps

The test combines coloured silver nanoparticles with antibodies against each of the three viruses. If a patient has the corresponding virus in their blood, the test pad shows a disease-specific colour within a few minutes.

At the moment, healthcare workers use genetic techniques to examine the DNA in a blood sample and identify a particular virus. This takes several hours and requires a stable laboratory environment.

In contrast, doctors and health workers could use the paper test to detect disease even in remote areas with no power supply or hospital.

However, it is not sensitive enough to replace traditional laboratory tests altogether, and the researchers say that follow-up tests in a clinical environment would be needed to confirm the test’s diagnosis.

Doctors could also help to map the spread of a disease by taking pictures of the test results and uploading them to an online database.

“Because of the GPS and time and day stamp associated with the photo, this map would show where the disease is spreading, or where it is dying out,” says Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, an associate professor of engineering at MIT.

This could help health authorities to identify and confirm disease outbreaks in rural areas, says Jennifer Norman, director of public health at the UK humanitarian organisation Mercy Corps. “For example, if several patients tested positive for Ebola using this rapid test, health officials could prioritise further diagnostic and human resources for that particular area,” Norman says. – See more at:
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