Inspired by the ambitious objective to quickly detect the Ebola virus in the blood at a very early stage, to minimise further transmission, STMicroelectronics and Clonit, in collaboration with Italy's National Institute for Infectious Diseases Lazzaro Spallanzani, took only a few weeks tto produce a prototype portable analyser able to identify the presence of the Ebola virus in less than 75 minutes.
The portable analyser is based on the Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR) molecular biology technique. The next step in development of the analyser is to optimise the point-of-care Ebola-detection solution for large-scale deployment, including minimising the threat of infection during the handling of the biological sample; and lowering costs. This effort paves the way for enabling rapid diagnostic tests for Ebola as well as many other viruses that are much more widespread.
The prototype analyser kit has been successfully tested for compliance with applicable international standards by the National Institute for Infectious Diseases Spallanzani, one of the two Italian institutions designated by the Italian Ministry of Health as a reference centre for care and treatment of Ebola. The kit detects the presence of the Ebola virus with extreme accuracy in just a few microlitres of human-blood samples and the accuracy of the result has been confirmed with a blood sample diluted up to a million times. The high sensitivity of the test allows the detection of the virus at a very early stage, which can significantly help limit the spread of the deadly disease.
The kit consists of four main components:
• An extractor, on which the blood sample is loaded to extract the virus RNA ;
• A stamp-sized silicon IC, developed by STMicroelectronics’ labs in Agrate Brianza and Catania, which acts as a miniaturised reactor and reproduces, in a micrometre scale, the entire process of amplification and screening of the extracted genetic material on which the extracted RNA is loaded, to be then reverse-transcribed into DNA