Ebola does not represent the first virulent outbreak of our lifetime nor will it be the last. Doctors tasked with treating such unknown viral strains are forced to be creative in documenting and diagnosing patients. In the wake of the Ebola outbreak, here are four new technologies invented to detect and treat new illnesses.
Accurate On-site Testing
Image via Flickr by Army Medicine
Misdiagnosis has been a recurring issue in the attempted treatment of Ebola in West Africa. At one point, a single test existed that could identify the strain. As the country attempted to prevent the spread of a virulent infection, medical professionals were forced to send blood tests across the ocean.
During the turnaround time awaiting test results, patients who should be isolated interacted with others, thereby increasing the potential of an outbreak. Simply by adding the ability to determine the presence of Ebola on-site, healthcare providers can not only treat the patients more quickly but also protect the commonwealth from further contamination.
Ebola Test Kits
Identifying a new virus is oftentimes the first step in developing a cure. Even when this is not the case, simply determining whether a person has the illness helps mightily in preventing rapid growth.
Medical professionals understand that all viruses possess a genetic market, a sort of fingerprint, that can be quantified. Once that information is identified, a testing process can be created. In the particular case of Ebola, Ribonucleic acid aka RNA provides the tell-tale marker.
An Ebola test kit has evolved from this fingerprint, and the new process is simple. The potential patient and carrier provides a blood sample. The RNA is tested to determine whether Ebola is present, and the results are published in approximately an hour and a half. This sort of rapid response medical diagnosis empowers healthcare providers in preventing an accelerated outbreak.
Ebola Test Strips
The same underlying concept of test kits applies to test strips. The central difference is that the strip itself provides the notification of the presence of Ebola. Several variations of this new premise have cropped up over the past few months. At Emory University, REDS – Rapid Ebola Detection Strips – were invented by a pair of students seeking extra credit in a class.
The strips require the same blood sample. There is no need for further effort to determine if a patient has Ebola though. If the color of the strip changes, Ebola is present in the subject. Best of all, the entire process takes less than an hour. Since the key to the prevention of a virulent outbreak is early identification of carriers, the time saved reduces the potential number of incubated victims in the area.
Don’t laugh. Multiple Ebola patients were transported to the same healthcare facility in Omaha, Nebraska. The explanation for this oddity is that Nebraska Medicine features state of the art protective equipment. They have developed a form of hands-free medicine that includes everything from triple-protection gloves and face shields to Bluetooth stethoscopes. By enabling healthcare providers with the ability to perform up-close examinations without the fear of infection, Nebraska Medicine has demonstrated the future of medicine.
Only when crisis strikes do people become aware of the intrinsic flaws in a system. While horrific, the Ebola outbreak has shined a light on the inadequacies of modern medicine. Already, these four improvements have been made, and many more are in development.