Researchers are to conduct trials of a 15-minute Ebola test at a treatment center for the disease in Guinea, international health charity The Wellcome Trust said on Friday.
Researchers developing the rapid diagnosis Ebola test said it is six times faster than tests in use currently. If it proves successful, the new test could help medical staff identify and isolate confirmed Ebola patients faster and start treating them sooner.
Val Snewin of the Wellcome Trust said the test was designed to be suitable for remote field hospitals where electricity and cold storage are often scarce.
The trial, to be led by researchers at the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal, will take place at an Ebola treatment center in Guinea’s capital, Conakry, in the coming weeks.
'Mobile suitcase laboratory'
Researchers will use a “mobile suitcase laboratory” - a portable lab the size of a laptop computer with a solar panel, a power pack and a results reader, which is designed for use in rural areas of poor countries where electricity is not reliable.
The reagent substances used in the test, which detects the genetic material of the virus, are available as dried pellets that do not need cold storage.
“A reliable, 15-minute test that can confirm cases of Ebola would be a key tool for effective management of the Ebola outbreak,” Snewin said. “It not only gives patients a better chance of survival, but it prevents transmission of the virus to other people.”
Britain, which is helping fund the research, already has an Ebola laboratory in Sierra Leone and is building two others in its former colony.
About 1,200 Guineans have died of Ebola. The current Ebola outbreak has killed about 5,700 people and caused about 16,000 infections, with the great majority of them in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone.
Also Friday, the World Health Organization reported that men who have recovered from Ebola should abstain from sex or practice safe sex for three months to minimize the risk of passing the virus on in their semen.
Ebola normally spreads through contact with bodily fluids such as blood, saliva and feces. Although sexual transmission of Ebola virus disease has never been documented, the virus has been detected in the survivors' semen.
"Men who have recovered from Ebola virus disease should be aware that seminal fluid may be infectious for as long as three months after onset of symptoms," the WHO said in a statement.
"Because of the potential to transmit the virus sexually during this time, they should maintain good personal hygiene after masturbation, and either abstain from sex (including oral sex) for three months after onset of symptoms, or use condoms if abstinence is not possible."
Hollande visits Guinea
Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande is visiting Guinea, becoming the first Western leader to go to one of the nations at the center of the Ebola outbreak.
Hollande was greeted Friday in Conakry by President Alpha Conde before meeting with health workers and visiting a medical facility.
France has pledged $125 million to the fight against Ebola, concentrating on Guinea, where it once was a colonial power.
Hollande stressed that countries suffering from Ebola outbreaks must not be isolated. He said he came to Guinea to deliver a message of hope.
Nearly a year since the first patient died in a remote southeastern village of Guinea, at least 25 villages in the country's forested and mountainous southeast still are refusing to allow entry by health workers who are trying to trace potential cases, according to human rights groups at a seminar this week on the response to Ebola.
Material for this report came from Reuters, AFP and AP.