Scientists in field laboratories who diagnose and deal with Ebola infections often work under challenging conditions. Researchers at the German Primate Center have developed Diagnostics-in-a-Suitcase, which contains all reagents and equipment to detect the Ebola virus within 15 minutes at point-of-need. Moreover, the mobile suitcase laboratory will be operated by an integrated solar panel and a power pack.
Current tests rely on the detection of Ebola genome by the real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technique, which is not suitable for on-site screening. Samples collected from the site of an outbreak are therefore transported over long distances to laboratories for testing.
The Diagnostics-in-a-Suitcase is based on the Recombinase Polymerase Amplification (RPA) technology developed by TwistDx Ltd, a subsidiary of Alere Inc. RPA is as sensitive as PCR, but extremely rapid and works at a constant temperature, meaning no rapid heat-cycling equipment is required. Furthermore, reagents used in the RPA test are cold chain independent, which allows them to be used and transported at ambient temperature.