WHO announces easy test kits to hunt down Ebola

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IFRC Kenema Ebola treatment centre (October 2014) © IRIN/Ricci Shryock

Easy-to-use ebola testing kits are in the pipeline which will be used to hunt down the very last cases of the disease, according to UN doctors.

The announcement is the next step in the World Health Organization (WHO) effort to eliminate the deadly disease in west Africa.

So far, efforts to contain outbreaks of the deadly disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone have so far been hampered by slow and complex diagnostic procedures.

WHO's Dr Pierre Formenty said that current testing can take up to six hours; that’s too expensive for the three west African countries where the disease has killed at least 5,000 people.

When they become available in six months the new kits will need to be distributed in huge quantities to carry out thousands of tests a day.

They could resemble a pregnancy test which gives a result in around 15 minutes.

Other lab-based kits will also be required costing upwards of 20,000 dollars.

Dr Formenty said the tests would have made a big difference had they been available at the start of the outbreak:

"So it's true that these tests were not ready, it would have been better with these tests, notably detection of the outbreak in Guinea but also in the other countries. I hope that next six months, next year, we will have this test and it will help not only the control of this outbreak but also the detection of the outbreak outside west Africa in the the rest of Africa"  (26")

WHO says that having these new tests readily available could also restore faith in west African health systems which have been devastated by fear of contagion.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1’31″


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