SAN DIEGO — With a single prick and a single drop of blood, a San Diego company claims they can now detect if a patient has Ebola in less than 10 minutes.
The breakthrough technology is called “Ebola Plus,” a tool that can be used to detect Ebola on anyone, anywhere in the world.
“We can do that for a large number of tests simultaneously with just one drop of blood,” said Dr. Cary Gunn, Ph.D. and CEO and Genalyte.
Once blood is drawn, a silicon chip is used to detect the virus as blood flows over it.
Researchers at Genalyte have been working on the diagnostic tool for seven years, using it to test for various diseases, and only recently discovered it could also work to spot Ebola
“It allows you to screen more patients more rapidly. The biggest question right now is the debate about quarantine. Instead of asking people to take their fever once or twice a day, they can just take a prick of blood,” said Dr. Gunn.
It can analyze up to 100 samples per hour, and be administered anywhere including, hospitals, airports, and even remote areas in West Africa where the disease is spreading rapidly.
“Right now, most people in Liberia aren’t even being tested. People who have suspicion of having Ebola are being checked into wards. The ability to take a prick of blood and do the test would be a game changer in that environment,” said Gunn.
Developing the platform for the test cost Genalyte around $100,000, but each chip that will be used during the tests costs $10 each – making early detection cheaper and easier for caretakers.
Currently, the FDA has only approved for P-C-R that can take two hours for results, compared to the Ebola Plus that can provide results in ten minutes.
Eric Thomas Duncan, the first American who died form the disease, had to wait several days for his diagnosis – by then, he had already spread it to two nurses.
“It’s a terrible situation, but we’ve been training for this and we think we can make a difference,” said Gunn.
The test can also simultaneously detect sicknesses like the flu and malaria, making it easier for administrators to rule our what could be mistaken for Ebola.
The FDA is currently evaluating the test; Gunn believes it will get approval within a few short months.