French researchers will conduct trials with prototype Ebola diagnostic tests in Guinea in November, with results expected within weeks for speedy deployment, the head of France`s Ebola task force said Thursday.
They will include a prototype device unveiled last week, similar to a home pregnancy test, that may make diagnosis possible in under 15 minutes, a potential game-changer, Jean-Francois Delfraissy, who spearheads France`s Ebola campaign, told journalists in Paris.
"It will make a big difference not to have to wait for six hours, but only 15 minutes," he said, referring to the time it currently takes for results to come back from the laboratory. The biggest Ebola epidemic in history has claimed more than 4,900 lives in west Africa since the beginning of the year, according to the World Health Organization -- almost all of them in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Earlier this month, France`s Atomic Energy Commission (CEA) announced that a new 15-minute Ebola test has proved effective in high-security laboratory trials.
It has not yet been validated by regulators.
The diagnostic tool works by antibodies reacting to the presence of the virus in a tiny sample, which can be a drop of blood, plasma or urine, it said.
A European pharma company Vedalab is turning the prototype into a user-friendly kit called eZYSCREEN that will see a positive result yield a small stripe in a results window on the hand-held device.
The kit is simple to use in the field without any additional equipment, said the CEA.
Other pharmaceutical teams are also working on fast diagnostic tools for Ebola. They include Primerdesign, a spinoff company of Britain`s University of Southampton, and Corgenix Medical Corp of the United States.
Work is also under way in several laboratories on developing a vaccine or cure for the killer haemorrhagic fever against which no drug treatment exists.
Delfraissy said the diagnostics experiments will be conducted by volunteers Doctors Without Borders (MSF -- Medecins Sans Frontieres) under the supervision of experts from the French Institute of Health and Medical Research (Inserm).
Some of the trials will take place at a new, French-sponsored health centre in Macenta in southeast Guinea.
Delfraissy said he hoped the tests would yield "reliable information by the beginning of December to allow the tests to be used in the field".