Oliva Hallisey, a 16-year-old from the United States, won the 2015 Google Science Fair with her project to develop a fast, cheap, and stable test for the Ebola virus, which she says gives easy-to-read results in less than 30 minutes — potentially before someone is even showing symptoms.
According to her project description:
Current Ebola detection methods are complex, expensive, require unbroken refrigeration from manufacture to use and up to 12 hours from testing to confirmed diagnosis … The [test] provides rapid, inexpensive, accurate detection of Ebola viral antigens based on color change within 30 minutes in individuals prior to their becoming symptomatic and infectious.
The problem with many current Ebola tests are many, Hallisey wrote in her science fair description:
Current methods of Ebola detection utilize enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (“ELISA”) detection kits which cost approximately $1,000 each, require complex instrumentation, trained medical professionals to administer, and up to 12 hours from testing to diagnosis.
While Hallisey wasn’t able to test her invention on real Ebola patients or virus, she showed it could detect a protein from the virus.
The test uses the typical components of an Ebola test, which is made up of antibodies (the tags that our immune system uses to mark viruses and bacteria as invaders) and chemicals that cause the test to change colors if these antibodies bind to Ebola proteins in the sample.
The big innovation: To make the test stable, Hallisey used silk fibers to stabilize the chemicals on card stock, allowing them to sit around at room temperature for up to 3 weeks and still be effective. No refrigeration required, unlike with current Ebola tests.
Hallisey then used these silk-stabilized chemicals to design a paper-based test that requires only a serum sample (the clear part of the blood after the red blood cells have been removed) and water to run.
The three chemicals used to detect the Ebola protein-bound antibodies are added to separate corners of the paper (2,3,4 in the diagram to the right). And the anti-Ebola antibodies are in the center.
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SOURCE: Tech Insider, Jennifer Welsh