NIAID is supporting the development of improved diagnostics to detect Ebola virus infection, including those that can provide rapid identification and can be deployed at the point of care where Ebola virus outbreaks occur. For example, NIAID has supported BioFire Diagnostics in developing FilmArray, a multiplex polymerase chain reaction (PCR) system that has been deployed in the field and can detect viral nucleic acid in patient samples in less than two hours. Other types of diagnostics under development include those using novel technologies, such as microfluidics, optofluidics, and nanophotonics, which can detect an array of viruses, including Ebola viruses.
NIAID experts provided significant diagnostics support in Liberia during the 2014-2016 outbreak of Ebola virus disease. Few tests were available initially, and response teams faced numerous challenges in bringing diagnostics capabilities to the field. Teams dealt with supply chain issues and had to repurpose existing laboratories or set up temporary tent laboratories outfitted with the correct equipment. NIAID assisted in training local teams in proper diagnostics protocols and requirements to maintain high quality data in an outbreak setting.
NIAID experts gained significant experience in using the GeneXpert assay (Cepheid Xpert Ebola Assay on GeneXpert Instrument Systems) during the 2014-2016 outbreak response and in multiple clinical trials run by the PREVAIL clinical research partnership. Since then, NIAID has provided remote technical assistance to diagnosticians in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, particularly on the use of the GeneXpert assay. NIAID also initially funded the basic science research for the diagnostic platform and supported the development of the Xpert assay for diagnosing tuberculosis and Ebola.