It would definitely be an understatement to say that the sooner the Ebola virus is detected in blood samples, the better. Unfortunately, those samples currently have to be shipped off to labs for analysis, often far from the area being studied. That could soon change, though, as a compact new device can identify Ebola in under half an hour.

Presently, a process known as reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is most commonly used to detect Ebola RNA in blood samples. Not only must the test be conducted in a properly-equipped lab, however, but it takes several hours to perform.

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The new smartphone-sized device also conducts RT-PCR tests, but does so on a miniaturized scale. Additionally, it requires only a finger-prick-sized blood sample, and takes less than 37 minutes to deliver results. Those results don't just state whether or not the virus is present, but also tell users how many RNA copies are present in the sample.

With this fact in mind, the device could be used not only to diagnose Ebola, but also to track viral loads in recovering patients' bodily fluids.

The research was carried out by scientists from KIST Europe, Northwestern Polytechnical University in China, and Brno University of Technology in the Czech Republic. It's described in a paper that was recently published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.

Source: American Chemical Society