FDA Approves a Fast-Acting Ebola Test
The fight to stop Ebola continues to rage on across the world as researchers continue to find new ways to both detect and treat the deadly virus. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has just approved a new test to detect the virus in patients believed to be suffering from the virus.
The test, made by TIB MOLBIOL GmbH and distributed by the pharmaceutical company Roche, is a fast acting test and has been approved for emergency use.
Current tests on the market can take almost a full day before results are available. In the race to fight this disease, every second counts. Roche's new LightMix Ebola Zaire rRT-PCR Test provides results in just over three hours according to the Swiss drugmaker.
The test had been used temporarily by some labs in the U.S. and other countries to identify the strain of Ebola currently spreading through West Africa. The test is still not approved for general use.
Under the emergency use designation, certain laboratories in the United States and other countries have been authorized t use the test for a limited period to detect the type of Ebola that has been spreading in West Africa.
Scientists have been steadily working to better treat the deadly virus with studies taking place across the country in an effort to create stronger treatments. In the last year, 19,497 cases have been reported in West Africa. Of those cases, the death toll from Ebola has risen to 7,588.
Fast diagnosis is often one of the keys to successful treatment of patients suffering from Ebola. This new test, while still only allowed in emergency situations, marks a first step toward quickly identifying the Ebola infection in patients.
Ebola is a viral illness of which the initial symptoms can include a sudden fever, intense weakness, muscle pain and a sore throat, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). And that is just the beginning: subsequent stages are vomiting, diarrhea and - in some cases - both internal and external bleeding.
The disease infects humans through close contact with infected animals, including chimpanzees, fruit bats and forest antelope.
It then spreads between humans by direct contact with infected blood, bodily fluids or organs, or indirectly through contact with contaminated environments. Even funerals of Ebola victims can be a risk, if mourners have direct contact with the body of the deceased.
The incubation period can last from two days to three weeks, and diagnosis is difficult. The human disease has so far been mostly limited to Africa, although one strain has cropped up in the Philippines.
Currently, there are no vaccines, though some are currently being tested. The current outbreak is killing between 50% and 60% of patients. This latest form of detection of the virus is the first step in fighting the disease as early diagnose could be one of the keys to successful treatment.