BERLIN (AP) — The World Health Organization said Friday it has approved a quick test for Ebola that will dramatically cut the time it takes to determine — with reasonable accuracy — whether someone is infected with the deadly virus.
The ReEBOV Antigen Rapid Test Kit, made by Colorado-based Corgenix, met sufficient quality, safety and performance requirements to allow it to be purchased and distributed by U.N. agencies and aid groups, WHO said.
"It may definitely help the response. I wouldn't say it's a game-changer," said Dr. Bruce Aylward, WHO's assistant director-general.
Until now, Ebola tests have been mainly conducted in laboratories. These gene-based tests are more accurate but can take between 12 and 24 hours.
The new test can provide results within 15 minutes by detecting an Ebola protein. In trials it correctly identified 92 percent of the patients with Ebola and 85 percent of those not infected.
Medical personnel will still need to conduct a backup test when someone tests negative, said Aylward. "But (the new test) might help us get to zero faster."
Almost 24,000 people have been infected and nearly 9,400 people have died from the current Ebola outbreak, which began in West Africa over a year ago.
A massive international effort was launched last year to combat the disease in the three most affected countries — Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea. That effort has had some success, but cases have been spiking again in some areas in recent weeks, said WHO spokeswoman Daniela Bagozzi.