The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), through its Ebola+ programme, has awarded a £1m grant to Public Health England (PHE) scientists, who are heading a consortium involved in the development of ‘in the field’ Ebola test.

The grant has been awarded to PHE Research, Microbiology Services head professor Miles Carroll.

The IMI fund will be used to coordinate a consortium, called MOFÍNA, of European public and private sector scientists to develop and validate a new test for Ebola.

"Patients will be treated faster leading to a greater chance of their survival."

The new Ebola test is expected to allow medical workers diagnose patients on site.

PHE’s research team at will develop and validate a molecular point of care (POC) system suitable for safe, specific and sensitive detection of Ebola virus infection within the field.

The research to be conducted under the project will involve testing blood samples combining Altona Diagnostics’ Pan-filo screening IVD test with the existing Alere q POC molecular diagnostics platform of Alere.

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Carroll said: "If our research is successful, it could be possible to diagnose a suspected case on site in 30 to 40 minutes, which will dramatically decrease mortality rates.

"Patients will be treated faster leading to a greater chance of their survival. It will also help medical staff stop the spread of infection and ultimately bring outbreaks to an end."

The POC system is based on the existing CE-marked assay marketed by altona and an integrated molecular diagnostic platform from Alere.

The system is designed to detect the genetic material of Ebola viruses at a sensitivity and specificity comparable with test systems performed at central laboratories.

PHE business lead for the project Dr Seshadri Vasan said: "There is a need for rapid, accurate Ebola tests that can be used on site. We’re aiming to develop a test that can be administered safely and used in locations where laboratories are unavailable.

"Our Public Health England scientists are on the front lines in West Africa, working with academic and private sector partners from around the world to develop therapeutic and diagnostic options for Ebola."

Image: Electron micrograph of an Ebola virus virion. Photo: courtesy of CDC/Cynthia Goldsmith.