FRANKFURT (Reuters) - German drugmaker Stada will launch a test next month that can diagnose Ebola virus infections within minutes, it said on Monday, a move it hopes will help to slow the spread of the disease.
The test, which is being marketed by Stada, was developed and produced by unlisted German diagnostics firm Senova. It yields results based on pre-treated patient blood samples within about 10 minutes.
Stada said its main use would likely be to diagnose the deceased because their body fluids do not need to be pre-treated before testing. Contact by mourners with their dead relatives is a common way for the disease to be transmitted.
“The viral load in people who have died of Ebola is so high that a mere throat swab suffices to perform the rapid test,” Senova owner Hans Hermann Soeffing said.
The number of new cases of Ebola rose in all three of West Africa’s worst-hit countries last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) said, ending previously encouraging declines across the region.
In all, 8,981 people have died of Ebola out of 22,495 known cases in nine countries since the outbreak began in December 2013, according to the WHO.
Using Stada’s test on living patients will typically require pre-treating blood samples with battery-powered centrifuges, which are available at most emergency relief centers in the affected regions, a company spokesman said.
Stada, a supplier of generic drugs, non-prescription treatments and diagnostic kits, said it would distribute the test from next month to aid organizations for 3.20 euros ($3.66) apiece, which covers its costs.
The test has been shown to work in a trial with several hundred participants in Guinea, according to the company.
While Stada said the test was the first of its kind, there have been previous efforts to speed Ebola diagnosis. Health charity The Wellcome Trust said in November a new 15-minute Ebola test it helped fund was being tried out in Guinea, targeting six times faster testing than diagnostic kits currently in use.
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Reporting by Ludwig Burger; Editing by Mark Potter