Ebola quick test from Germany | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 09.02.2015
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Ebola quick test from Germany

The test by a German pharmaceutical company is easy to use and store. It comes at a time when Ebola infections in western Africa are on the rise again.

Good news in the fight against Ebola: German pharmaceutical company Stada has announced that it will launch a rapid test for Ebola in March.

The test was developed by researchers at the German diagnostics firm Senova. It will be sold to aid organizations all over the world for 3.20 euro (3.66 US dollars) a piece and yields results in 10 minutes, based on patients' pre-treated blood samples.

The deceased can even be tested without taking a blood sample. Their viral load is so high that a throat-swab will be enough. It is crucial to find out whether a person died of Ebola, because contact with a dead relative is a very common way for people in western Africa to catch the disease.

Senova owner Hans Hermann Söffing told DW last December that the company could theoretically produce 10,000 test strips a day. "Demand for our test is huge," Söffing said.

He added that if the quick test showed a positive result, the probability that the patient actually had Ebola was as high as 98 percent. Patients who have a very low virus concentration in their blood might not give a positive test result, even though they suffer from Ebola. Only a more detailed diagnostic can provide 100 percent definitive results.

But Senova's rapid test has a crucial advantage over these more complicated tests: the strips can be carried around by aid teams traveling to local villages. They can also be stored at room temperature for up to 24 months.

The pre-treatment that is required for living patients' blood samples can be conducted using battery-powered centrifuges, which most aid agencies in the region have at their disposal.

Rising numbers of new infections

The number of new Ebola infections rose in all three worst-affected countries in the last week of January. Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea saw 124 new infections, 50 more than in the previous week, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported.

Since the outbreak of the current Ebola epidemic in December 2013, 8,981 have died of the disease, news agency Reuters reports.