UN health agency approves rapid test for Ebola as decline in cases appears to level off
The United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) today announced that it has approved for use a rapid diagnostic test kit for Ebola that can provide results in 15 minutes and correctly identify 92 percent of patients infected by the disease that has killed more than 9,400 people, mainly in West Africa.
Meanwhile at UN headquarters, Dr. Bruce Aylward, who leads WHO's response on Ebola, and Dr. David Nabarro, the UN Secretary-General's Special Envoy on Ebola, briefed Member States on the need to maintain the robust response to get the number of cases to zero.
“As long as there is even one case of Ebola active in the human population, it's a danger for everybody – it's a problem for West Africa, it's a problem for [wider] Africa and it's a problem for the world, Dr. Nabarro told reporters after their briefing. “We must be fully engaged, all of us, until the last person with Ebola is treated and is cured.”
The two doctors expressed their concerns about the recent slowdown in the pattern of decline in cases over the last four weeks in the three most affected countries of Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Referring to a graph showing that the last four weeks has seen more than 120 Ebola cases a week, Dr. Aylward said “this is not what you want to see,” and described the trend as “a very bumpy road” on the wary to zero cases.
They also told reporters that the upcoming rainy season starting in about two months posed as a complicating factor as it could give the virus a chance to get ahead of the response.
Earlier in Geneva, the UN health agency announced that it had “assessed and today listed the ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test Kit [manufactured by Corgenix Medical Corp of the United States] as eligible for procurement to Ebola affected countries.”
“The test was evaluated under WHO's Emergency Assessment and Use, a procedure established to provide minimum quality, safety and performance assurance for diagnostic products in the context of the Ebola emergency, the announcement said.
The new test, which can provide results within 15 minutes, “is able to correctly identify about 92 per cent of Ebola infected patients and 85 per cent of those not infected with the virus,” according to WHO.
In comparison, the turn-around time of current tests for Ebola can vary between 12 and 24 hours, it said.
WHO Spokesman Tarik Jašareviæ told reporters in Geneva that the new test was a little bit less accurate than the test that WHO was currently using, but it was easy to perform, it did not require electricity and it could be used in lower level health care facilities or in mobile units for patients in remote settings.
The WHO spokesman also said that a number of agencies, such as the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), have expressed interest in purchasing it.
The current Ebola outbreak in West Africa has affected more than 23,000 people with over 9,400 deaths, mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.