For health workers to currently diagnose the presence of Ebola virus, a full vial of venous blood must be shipped to a laboratory with a high level of both biosafety and staff expertise. There, the blood sample is tested using a method called real-time reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR).
However, RT-PCR is a slow and complex test that comes with attached risks for the health care workers responsible for the collection, transportation and testing of the blood. The complexity and slow turnaround for this diagnostic have been blamed for delaying success in containing the epidemic.
Dr. Nira Pollock, senior author and associate medical director of the Infectious Diseases Diagnostic Laboratory at Boston Children’s Hospital, MA, says that because the laboratory results from the test can take days to return:
« Delays like this result not only in the failure to diagnose and treat Ebola-infected patients, but also in individuals without Ebola being admitted to holding units where they may be subsequently infected with the virus. »
By contrast, Dr. Pollock says that the new ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test is capable of detecting Ebola virus in just a drop of blood tested at a bedside.