Two Emory University freshmen may have developed a user-friendly test strip that detects whether a patient has Ebola—and could be licensed for distribution by January.
Rostam Zafari and Brian Goldstone designed Rapid Ebola Detection Strips (REDS) as an extra credit project for their biology class. The two students launched an online crowdfunding campaign for their idea on September 12, and ended up raising $14,605, slightly more than their goal.
The portable strips—yet to be tested with the virus—change color to represent infection status when they come in contact with blood.
Currently, Ebola blood tests are done in a lab and can take up to five days. Humans can carry the virus for three weeks before exhibiting symptoms, at which point they become contagious. The strip test could take less than an hour, but the students will not know for sure until the prototype is developed.
"If we can get [patients] before they show symptoms, we can really curb the impact of the virus," says Zafari.
Moisture and heat affect many test strips, so the pair is working to make REDS stable in extreme temperatures, which would make them easy to use in remote areas.
"Imagine being able to test someone for Ebola almost as easily as taking their temperature, " says Raj Ramakrishnan, an Emory MBA candidate advising Zafari and Goldstone.
Biology professor Justine Liepkalns also has helped design protocols for the strips.
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The team will use its new funds for prototype development and testing.
First, the strips will be exposed to a deactivated part of the virus that is not infectious. Should they work, the team will move on to Ebola-infected blood obtained from a yet-to-be-determined medical company.
From there, the team hopes to partner with a company to mass-produce the inexpensive strips.
“The CDC says infections are doubling every 20 days,” says Zafari. “We want to save people as fast as we can," qualifying that they will not rush to production before the product is as effective as possible (Metz, USA Today College, 10/15).
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