If not a quick cure to Ebola, MIT researchers have a made big leap forward in detecting the deadly virus in just 10 minutes with a paper strip similar to a pregnancy test. It can also be used to diagnose other viral hemorrhagic fevers such as yellow fever and dengue fever.
Currently, to diagnose Ebola requires sending blood samples to a lab with advanced techniques such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) that can detect it in one day. But the new device can help those in the field and rural areas to quickly test a person and rely on results before beginning the treatment.
The new device uses lateral flow technology, which is used in pregnancy tests and has recently been used to diagnose strep throat but nobody has applied a multiplexing approach, using multicolored nanoparticles, to simultaneously screen for multiple pathogens.
For many hemorrhagic fever viruses, like West Nile and dengue and Ebola, Argentine hemorrhagic fever and the Hantavirus diseases, there is no rapid diagnostics and the current paper strip will make it quick and easy, said Gehrke, who worked on it Hamad-Schifferli for over 4 years.
The new MIT strips are color-coded for use in identifying several diseases. By using triangular nanoparticles, made of silver, that can take on different colors depending on their size, MIT researchers were able to develop the new device.
The researchers created red, orange, and green nanoparticles and linked them to antibodies that recognize Ebola, dengue fever, and yellow fever. As a patient’s blood serum flows along the strip, any viral proteins that match the antibodies painted on the stripes will get caught, and the nanoparticles will become visible to the naked eye.
“When we run a patient sample through the strip, if you see an orange band you know they have yellow fever, if it shows up as a red band you know they have Ebola, and if it shows up green then we know that they have dengue,” Hamad-Schifferli says.
MIT researchers are hoping to get US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval to start using the device in West Africa, where the Ebola outbreak is still prevalent.