Rapid Ebola Test Approved

The World Health Organization OKs the first 15-minute Ebola diagnostic test.

Feb 24, 2015
Jef Akst

FLICKR, NIAIDA few drops of blood are all that’s needed to test for Ebola using a newly approved paper-based diagnostic test. Approved by the World Health Organization (WHO) last week (February 20), the ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test Kit, produced by Broomfield, Colorado-based Corgenix, uses antibodies to test for the presence of an Ebola protein and returns results within 15 minutes. Current Ebola testing is largely PCR-based, typically requiring trained personnel to draw blood, well-equipped labs, and a day or more to return results.

The ReEBOV test correctly identifies 92 percent of infected people, and has a 15 percent false-positive rate, and is intended as an initial screen for the virus, with follow-up PCR tests required to confirm infection. “This is not a perfect test but . . . for a rapid test, [it is] not too bad at all,” Robyn Meurant from the WHO’s department of essential medicines and health products told Reuters.

Some in the field are more concerned about the numbers. “This is quite far away from the characteristic [we] were hoping to have,” immunologist Erwan Piriou of Doctors Without Borders told NPR’s Goats and Soda. “We’re still discussing whether we’ll use it or not.”

The test costs around $15, with discounts available for bulk purchases and use in Africa, Tulane University’s Robert Garry, who helped develop the test, told ScienceInsider.