David Alland, a professor of medicine and associate dean for clinical research at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School — and the principal investigator for the project — says health workers would be able to take the test to small villages and other remote locations where the spread of Ebola has been especially rampant and diagnose patients where they live.
The test could be used wherever electricity is available, including power from car batteries, according to Alland. “That means diagnosis would take significantly shorter than the time it takes to get a test result now from a medical lab,” he says.
Alland, working with the California biotechnology company Cepheid, hopes to develop the test within the next 15 months — using genetic material from Ebola and other viruses that cannot cause or spread disease. Work in Alland’s laboratory will not involve the use of live virus.
Alland and Cepheid previously used technology similar to the planned Ebola test to develop a rapid test for tuberculosis (TB) that is now widely used in impoverished areas of the world.
As they produce their test for the Ebola virus, Alland and Cepheid also plan to create rapid diagnostic tests for other viral illnesses, including chikungunya — a painful mosquito-borne disease that, according to the CDC, sickened more than 140 people in New Jersey this year after those people had visited tropical regions in the Caribbean and Asia and islands in the Pacific.
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