Rapid diagnostic kits are very useful for a variety of reasons. First, they enable a quicker diagnosis, thus allowing treatment to start faster. Second, a portable test allows them to be used in the field. Field testing allows a remote location health care provider to start lifesaving treatment early and begin the evacuation process earlier. A recent article from Medical News Today looks at a portable and rapid test kit for Ebola and Marburg viruses.
Researchers at Boston University have developed a biosensor that is roughly the size of a quarter. This test looks at virus particles in blood. researchers are hopeful that the technology can be adapted to also test for other viruses such as H1N1 and influenza. This will have obvious application at airports and travel hubs around the world to help with diagnosis and quarantine of infected travelers, thus helping to limit disease spread. In addition, outbreaks in communities can be decreased or halted by quickly diagnosing infected persons.
In case you needed a refresher on the Ebola Virus:
Ebola Basics: Acute viral illness of the Filoviradiae family. 3 sub-groups of Ebola exist (Cote D’Ivoir, Sudan and Zaire). A fourth type (Reston) is fatal in primates yet a symptomatic in humans. Symptoms include sudden onset of fever, myalgia (muscle aches), vomiting and diarrhea, sore throat and petechial (pin point) rash. Case fatality rate ranges from 50% to 90%.
Transmission/Incubation: Unknown reservoir at present, there is a link with dead primate carcasses found in forests. Transmission is believed to be based on handling or manipulating dead mammal carcasses in the rainforests of Central Africa. Frequent nosocomial spread (within a hospital). Incubation is approximately 7-21 days.
Prevention: Avoid handling mammal carcasses found in central African rainforests.
Treatment: There is no known treatment and no vaccine at present. Care centers around symptomatic relief with fever control and IV fluids.