BROOMFIELD, Colo. - A quick and easy test for the Ebola virus is under development at a Broomfield laboratory, prompted by concerns of a bioterrorism attack in the U.S.
The National Institutes of Health awarded Corgenix Medical Corporation $2.9 million this summer to create the test.
"One of the real needs, of course, is to be prepared," said Douglass Simpson, CEO of Corgenix. "We've never been attacked biologically in the United States, but it's definitely a concern."
While it takes meticulous work to combat infectious diseases, Simpson said intentionally spreading them is easier.
"A lot of reports say the next attack on the United States won't be a nuclear attack, won't be a plane going into a skyscraper," he said. "There's more of a chance it will be a biological agent. And you don’t have to have a sophisticated laboratory to develop these things. These agents, they're endemic. You can find them in Africa."
The Ebola test is based on one Corgenix has already developed for Lassa fever, a similar virus common in West Africa.
"It's designed to be very similar to a home pregnancy test," explained program director Matt Boisen.
The test involves a drop of the patient's blood placed on a small dipstick. Within minutes, one or two lines appear on the strip, with two lines indicating a positive test result for the virus.
The hope is the test would never be needed widescale in the U.S., but there's no doubt it could save lives in Africa.
"These viruses are in the animal population. They will never go away," Simpson said.
He said the Ebola test could be finished by 2016 at the earliest, perhaps in time for the next outbreak of the virus.
"(Ebola) will come back. Maybe one year, maybe three years, maybe 10 years," said Simpson. "We’ll have the product there, and we can test them, we can treat them, we can isolate them."