Current diagnostic processes hinder fight against Ebola

Healthcare providers would be poised to better manage and fight Ebola if the U.S. invests wisely in upgrading diagnostic technologies and capabilities, according to a recent article in Forbes by Anita Goel, MD, PhD, chairman and CEO of the Nanobiosym Research Institute and Nanobiosym Diagnostics. 

According to Dr. Goel, one of the biggest problems with the Ebola diagnostic process is relying on 400-year-old technology: the thermometer.

The thermometer, used to detect fevers, a primary symptom of Ebola, has low efficacy for indirectly detecting Ebola and results in a high rate of false positives. Also, it may take a person infected with Ebola 10 to 21 days to present a fever, and by this time between 50,000 and 100,000 copies of the Ebola virus could infect his or her blood, according to the article. 

The current Ebola diagnostic protocols keep potential patients in limbo for too long, according to Dr. Goel. Furthermore, individuals are not always quarantined nor are they provided with any medical treatment during this time period, though recent findings have shown that early supportive therapy can help increase the likelihood for survival for someone infected with Ebola.

On the other hand, Dr. Goel suggests investing in emerging technologies from nanobiophysics and information communications technologies can provide next generation tools and infrastructure to decentralize, mobilize and individualize the delivery of healthcare. These solutions are already available and can be used to fight the Ebola crisis with the right resources, she said.

For example, Dr. Goel notes that precision controlling nanomachines that read and write DNA make it possible to quickly and affordably detect and quantify genetic fingerprints of various pathogens, including Ebola, as well as HIV and the flu.

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