Japan researchers at Nagasaki University on 2 September 2014 developed a new method called RT-LAMP to detect the presence of the Ebola virus in 30 minutes. To develop the method Japan researchers headed by Prof Jiro Yasuda collaborated with Eiken Chemical.
The RT-LAMP (reverse transcription-loop-mediated isothermal amplification) technique by synthesising and amplifying the DNA of the Ebola virus detected the Ebola virus, as well as the viruses of Marburg hemorrhagic fever and Lassa fever.
The new method developed is cheap and simple and it can be used in places where the testing equipments are expensive.
The need to develop the method was necessitated by the outbreak of Ebola virus disease in the West African countries of Guinea, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Nigeria. The Ebola disease has so far engulfed more than 1400 lives.
How the Ebola was detected?
The researchers first developed a primer to amplify only those genes specific to the Ebola virus. The primer was developed by selecting six sections of genes of five types of the virus in which the difference in the base sequences was fewest.
Then to determine the presence of Ebola virus in the blood sample, the researchers detoxified the blood to prevent infection. Thereafter, RNA was extracted from any viruses present in the sample and used to synthesize DNA. The synthesised DNA was then mixed with the primers and other substances and placed in a transparent plastic tube. Next, the liquid was heated to 60-65 degree Celsius.
If Ebola is present, DNA specific to the virus is amplified in about 30 minutes due to the action of the primers. The by-products from this process cause the liquid to become cloudy, providing visual confirmation of detection.
RT-LAMP technique versus PCR technique
RT-Lamp technique is far better than Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR). In the PCR method, which is currently used to detect Ebola virus, the DNA is amplified by subsequently cooling and heating. The procedure takes one to two hours and requires dedicated equipment and a stable supply of electricity, making it difficult to use in regions with poor power infrastructure.
On the other hand, RT-LAMP method uses a small, battery-powered warmer to detect the Ebola virus which can be used in Ebola-affected regions in developing countries.
When: 2 September 2014