Ebolavirus diagnosis made simple, comparable and faster than molecular detection methods: preparing for the future

James, Ameh S.; Todd, Shawn; Pollak, Nina M.; Marsh, Glenn A.; Macdonald, Joanne

The 2014/2015 Ebolavirus outbreak resulted in more than 28,000 cases and 11,323 reported deaths, as of March 2016. Domestic transmission of the Guinea strain associated with the outbreak occurred mainly in six African countries, and international transmission was reported in four countries. Outbreak management was limited by the inability to rapidly diagnose infected cases. A further fifteen countries in Africa are predicted to be at risk of Ebolavirus outbreaks in the future as a consequence of climate change and urbanization. Early detection of cases and reduction of transmission rates is critical to prevent and manage future severe outbreaks. We designed a rapid assay for detection of Ebolavirus using recombinase polymerase amplification, a rapid isothermal amplification technology that can be combined with portable lateral flow detection technology. The developed rapid assay operates in 30 min and was comparable with real-time TaqMan™ PCR.

Designed, screened, selected and optimized oligonucleotides using the NP coding region from Ebola Zaire virus (Guinea strain). We determined the analytical sensitivity of our Ebola rapid molecular test by testing selected primers and probe with tenfold serial dilutions (1.34 × 1010− 1.34 × 101 copies/μL) of cloned NP gene from Mayinga strain of Zaire ebolavirus in pCAGGS vector, and serially diluted cultured Ebolavirus as established by real-time TaqMan™ PCR that was performed using ABI7500 in Fast Mode. We tested extracted and reverse transcribed RNA from cultured Zaire ebolavirus strains – Mayinga, Gueckedou C05, Gueckedou C07, Makona, Kissidougou and Kiwit. We determined the analytical specificity of our assay with related viruses: Marburg, Ebola Reston and Ebola Sudan. We further tested for Dengue virus 1–4, Plasmodium falciparum and West Nile Virus (Kunjin strain).

The assay had a detection limit of 134 copies per μL of plasmid containing the NP gene of Ebolavirus Mayinga, and cultured Ebolavirus and was highly specific for the Zaire ebolavirus species, including the Guinea strain responsible for the 2014/2015 outbreak. The assay did not detect related viruses like Marburg, Reston, or Sudan viruses, and other pathogens likely to be isolated from clinical samples.

Our assay could be suitable for implementation in district and primary health laboratories, as only a heating block and centrifuge is required for operation. The technique could provide a pathway for rapid screening of patients and animals for improved management of outbreaks.


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Virology Journal

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August 20, 2018


Ebolavirus, Molecular diagnostic, Rapid assay, Isothermal amplification technology, Low Resource Laboratories