Swiss scientists roll out low-cost portable diagnostic for Ebola

Scientists are racing to develop quick diagnostic devices that can screen for potentially deadly diseases in developing countries. Now, some researchers moved one step forward in the field with a portable microfluidic device that can screen for the Ebola virus.

Researchers at Switzerland's École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) are working on a low-cost device that can rapidly pick up on a number of disease biomarkers from small quantities of blood. The team has already tested the device on Ebola samples, finding that the device could flag the virus in asymptomatic and symptomatic patients. Scientists published their findings in a recent issue of the journal ACS Nano.

The tool runs on battery power and pinpoints up to 16 different molecules to give healthcare workers information about a patient's condition, the scientists said in a statement. Unlike many microfluidic testing devices, the researchers' platform comprises both analog and digital detection. Analog detection is usually used to monitor higher concentrations of biomarkers, whereas digital detection is more sensitive and can identify single biomarkers in samples.

Francesco Piraino

Combining the two technologies could help speed up diagnosis or find a disease in its early stages, the EPFL scientists said in a statement. The device also allows blood samples to be loaded directly onto it without pretreatment, which could reduce processing times.

Next up, the team wants to test the device with other protein biomarkers and molecules. Eventually, the technology could be used to monitor epidemics and disease outbreaks, the scientists said.

"The platform will lead the development of new kinds of tests to meet the increasing demand for on-site diagnostic testing. It will prove very useful for medical staff working in resource-limited regions," Francesco Piraino, lead author on the paper, said in statement.

- here's the statement
- get the study abstract

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