A new test developed at MIT uses nanoparticles to quickly diagnose Ebola and other hemorrhagic fevers such as dengue fever and yellow fever. The tool’s ability to screen for multiple diseases is unique, and requires no special equipment or power supply. The simple paper test produces results in about 10 minutes—an important factor in preventing the spread of such infectious and deadly diseases.
Lee Gehrke, the Hermann L. F. von Helmholtz Professor in MIT’s Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), and Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli ’94, visiting scientist in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, are the senior authors of the paper describing the test. IMES postdoc Chun-Wan Yen is the paper’s lead author.
The test is made of paper strips containing antibodies attached to varying sizes of silver nanoparticles. When a patient’s blood serum flows through the strip, the nanoparticles become visible and take on different colors, depending on the disease. “When we run a patient sample through the strip, if you see an orange band you know they have yellow fever, if it shows up as a red band you know they have Ebola, and if it shows up green then we know that they have dengue,” Hamad-Schifferli told MIT News.
The researchers say their device is ideal for use in the field and allows researchers to immediately quarantine patients, before the disease has a chance to infect others. Researchers hope to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and begin using the test in areas where the Ebola crisis is ongoing. They also plan to create similar diagnostics that can detect other types of viral and infectious diseases. Says Gehrke, “What we’re trying to do is develop the antibodies needed to be ready for the next outbreak that’s going to happen.”