Point-of-care Diagnostics for Ebola
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In a recent DECODED research profile, Integrated DNA Technologies (IDT), details how IDT scientists Kristin Beltz and Dr Scott Rose are collaborating with Dr Brian Taylor’s research team at Battelle (Aberdeen, MD, USA) to design and validate a RT-qPCR assay that can detect the Ebola virus in the field. The IDT PrimeTime® Ebola qPCR Assay detects Zaire ebolavirus, the species involved in the 2013–2015 West African Ebola outbreak. Initial sensitivity and specificity results were presented at the 2015 Chemical and Biological Defense Science and Technology Conference (St. Louis, MO, USA). The researchers noted that the assay has a PCR efficiency of 98.9% and that use of ZEN™ Double-Quenched Probes (IDT) lowers assay background and increases signal compared to traditional single-quenched probes in qPCR assays.
It can be difficult to distinguish Ebola from other infectious diseases, and current diagnostic tests are time-consuming and complex. They also create challenges related to sample storage and transportation, laboratory biosafety, and staff expertise in performing the assays. Having access to simple, rapid, and accurate viral testing in remote villages would be extremely useful for quelling this and future epidemics. With this goal in mind, Dr Paul Pickering (Ubiquitome Limited, Auckland, New Zealand) is spearheading the project to develop the assay for use with the Ubiquitome Freedom4 device. This portable PCR machine processes 4 reactions (sample plus negative, positive, and extraction controls) in approximately 1 hour, and is easily controlled via an iPhone or laptop. The Freedom4 device eliminates the need for sample preservation and transportation to a laboratory-based testing facility, and can simply be brought to remote locations for use during time-sensitive, public health situations.