A rapid-detection Ebola test developed by an international team of scientists, including a University of Stirling, Scotland virologist has been deployed following a highly effective pilot project. Manfred Weidmann, Ph.D., from the University's School of Natural Sciences, was part of a Wellcome Trust project led by the Pasteur Institute of Dakar. Together, the scientists developed a sophisticated, point-of-care saliva test, all contained within a suitcase-sized mobile laboratory. Three mobile labs have now been deployed in Senegal and Guinea, and a test evaluation of 928 samples showed that the new test performs exceptionally well under field conditions. "There are more than 25 laboratories in West Africa and everyone is using different tests," said Dr. Weidmann. "Ours, which uses a method called recombinase polymerase amplification, was compared to two other tests and results show it can be reliably used without the need for a confirmatory test, and it appears to outperform a widely used WHO recommended test.”"There has been a huge push for robotic testing systems, but they are difficult to establish and expensive to maintain. Our project has successfully developed and deployed a low-cost mobile laboratory, using a rapid, highly sensitive and specific assay that can be stored at room temperature and operated by local teams with its own energy supply." Dr. Weidmann has also developed a range of assays to detect other mosquito-borne viruses, such as Dengue virus and Rift Valley Fever virus. He added: "Mosquito-borne viruses can affect high numbers of people much faster than Ebola, and outbreaks of Dengue virus and Rift Valley Fever virus have recently erupted in West-Africa. The system represents real progress in the quest to take the laboratory into the field.
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