Scientists from MIT, Harvard Med School, and the FDA have developed a paper-based device that changes color, depending on whether the patient has Ebola, yellow fever or dengue.
The scientists don't claim their method to be as accurate as PCR and ELISA, but it is an awesome tool in poor areas of the world where these diseases tend to thrive.
According to the researchers, the test works similar to pregnancy tests and doesn't require any water or electricity nor any complicated equipment.
"These are not meant to replace PCR and ELISA because we can't match their accuracy. But this is a complementary technique for places with no running water or electricity," says Hamad-Schifferli, lead author of the study.
Hamad-Schifferli and her team at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard Medical School and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration build silver nanoparticles in a rainbow of colors. The sizes of the nanoparticles determine their colors.
"Therefore, the team uses different sizes of these chemical ingredients for various hues. The researchers attached red, green or orange nanoparticles to antibodies that specifically bind to proteins from the organisms that cause Ebola, dengue or yellow fever, respectively.
They introduced the antibody-tagged nanoparticles onto the end of a small strip of paper. In the paper's middle, the researchers affixed "capture" antibodies to three test lines at different locations, one for each disease. The strip looks so simple, but it's incredibly complicated. Putting it all together in an integrated system was challenging," explains Hamad-Schifferli.
The research team is now working on distributing the test freely in regions where it would have the most benefit. Also, the team wants to help locals build their test kits that they can distribute quickly as needed