The cover of the April 2019 issue of ACS Sensors depicts the Cas13a-based Ebola RNA. (Credit: ACS Sensors)

A prototype microfluidic device with biosensors can detect the deadly Ebola virus. With this type of device, those infected can be treated earlier, and the early detection process can potentially decrease the spread of infections.

The microfluidic device utilizes CRISPR gene-editing technology to monitor and detect the nucleic acid markers that indicate Ebola virus. The virus is highly contagious and there is limited treatment once an individual has been diagnosed. There are several prominent strains of Ebola, and the research team focused on the EBOV strain, which has a high mortality rate.

The device is an automated and small chip with a highly sensitive fluorescence sensing unit embedded into the device. Physicians take patient samples and add them into the device where Ebola RNA can be seen by activating the CRISPR mechanism. The team is is also developing a device that could detect multiple virus strains from Ebola to influenza and zika, for example.