The fight against ebola continues
Though the last great outbreak of Ebola stopped being part of the day-to-day news of some developed countries, in the African continent the disease, though almost under control –a few hours ago Liberia announced the opening of the borders with Sierra Leona, still remains active; as do various groups of international researchers set on eradicating this outbreak that has claimed the lives of over 9,000 people. And, in light of the latest findings, it seems that they could be producing results.
Just a few hours ago, the latest of such results was being introduced: a device developed by the members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology which, as they proclaim, is capable of offering a diagnosis of the disease in only 10 minutes, without requiring a lab and with a mechanism that the organization itself compares with that of a pregnancy test.
Saving time invested in performing the test — currently performed by taking a blood sample to perform a polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis that detects the genetic material of the virus — on the one hand and in transferring it to the lab – finding one that is nearby can be a problem in countries such as Africa, on the other hand, is the main goal of this finding.
“As we have been able to evidence with the last Ebola outbreak, at times the symptoms are unclear”, explains MIT News Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, member of the Mechanical Engineering Department and MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. “We want to provide a quick diagnosis that is able to differentiate among a variety of diseases.
However, in addition to saving time, the great novelty of this device — which is still pending FDA approval — resides in its capacity to detect up to three hemorrhagic diseases: Dengue, Yellow Fever and Ebola, depending on its color. To achieve this, the developers have used triangular nanoparticles in colors such as red, orange and green, that recognize the antibodies of the different diseases, in such manner that when the blood enters into contact with the strip, the viral protein matching the antibodies makes the nanoparticle in question visible.
Trials for pharmaceuticals and vaccines continue
On the other hand, also only a few hours ago, the preliminary results of the clinical trial for the Japanese pharmaceutical drug Favipiravir were made known. Trials that began in the middle of December at the MSF (Doctors without borders) Ebola Treatment Center in Guéckédou (Guinea), and that for now reveal the efficacy of the drug in sick patients with a low viral load, though not in those in which the disease is in its advanced stage.
Two announcements that are joined to that of the World Health Organization at the beginning of January regarding the start of tests with two vaccines, considered to be safe, in healthy volunteers from the US, Europe and Western Africa.