Sept. 2 (Bloomberg) -- A team of Japanese researchers said they developed a cheaper and simpler way to detect the Ebola virus, which may help diagnose patients more quickly during the worst outbreak on record.
The method takes about 30 minutes or less and can be conducted in rural areas where there are no power cables, said Jiro Yasuda, professor of infectious diseases at Nagasaki University, today. The technique, initially reported in 2007 in Journal of Virological Methods by Yasuda and his colleagues, was modified to be used for the strain of Ebola that’s blamed for more than 1,550 deaths in West Africa.
The method is based on Japan’s testing equipment maker Eiken Chemical Co.’s technology, which can amplify DNA with a simple heater to keep the temperature of blood samples around 63 degrees Celsius, Yasuda said. The technique currently used is called polymerase chain reaction and requires a more expensive thermal cycler to control the temperature of the blood samples and takes longer for detection, he said.
“Current testing methods can only be used in very limited places in large cities,” said Yasuda. “More patients can be diagnosed with the new method.”
The current Ebola outbreak in Africa has sickened more than 3,000 people, according to the World Health Organization. The number of people falling ill is accelerating, with more than 40 percent of the infections happening in the past 21 days, the WHO said last week.
The virus is spread through direct contact with bodily fluids from an infected person. It causes fever, diarrhea, muscle pain, vomiting and, as it progresses, can lead to bleeding from the eyes, ears and nose. In the past, the fatality rate has been as high as 90 percent. About 52 percent of those infected in the current outbreak have died.