The World Health Organisation (WHO) has approved the first rapid test for Ebola in a potential breakthrough for ending an epidemic that has killed almost 10,000 people in West Africa, it said on 20 February.
The test, developed by US firm Corgenix Medical Corp, is less accurate than the standard test but is easy to perform, does not require electricity, and can give results within 15 minutes, WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said.
"The test was evaluated under WHO's emergency assessment and use procedure established to provide a minimum quality, safety and performance assurance for diagnostic products in the context of the Ebola emergency," he said.
The standard laboratory test has a turnaround time of 12-24 hours. While the Corgenix test is not fail-safe, it could quickly identify patients who need quarantine and make it much easier to verify rapidly any new outbreaks.
"It is a little bit less accurate than a standard PCR test that we are currently using, but it's easy to perform, does not require electricity and it can be therefore used in lower health care facilities, lower level of health care facilities or in mobile units for patients in remote settings," he said.
Jasarevic added that when possible, results from the Corgenix test should be checked against the standard laboratory test.
Procurement and roll-out of the test kits will not begin immediately because the company is still working out costing and needs a week or two more to finish administrative procedures with the US Food and Drug Administration, Jasarevic said.
The health charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, which has been at the forefront of the fight against Ebola, had expressed an interest, he said.
The so-called ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test involves putting a drop of blood on a small paper strip and waiting 15 minutes for a reaction in a test tube. It is able to correctly identify about 92 percent of Ebola infected patients and 85 percent of those not infected with the virus, the WHO said.