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Researchers develop new prototype paper test to detect Ebola strains

Researchers from Harvard University's Wyss Institute have developed a new DNA-programmed prototype blotting paper test to detect Ebola strains.

The scientists claim that the $20 DNA-programmed blotting paper test can be developed in 12 hours and can allow doctors to reveal an infection in around 30 minutes, reported BBC News.

Wyss staff scientist Dr Keith Pardee said: "We’ve harnessed the genetic machinery of cells and embedded them in the fiber matrix of paper, which can then be freeze-dried for storage and transport – we can now take synthetic biology out of the lab and use it anywhere to better understand our health and the environment."

Conceived by Wyss Institute Postdoctoral Fellow Alex Green, the Ebola sensor was created using the paper-based method and used a novel gene regulator called a "toehold switch", a new system for gene expression control with unparalleled programmability and flexibility.

Researcher Jim Collins was quoted by the news agency as saying that the biological powder can be reactivated by adding water.

"Once they’re rehydrated, these biological circuits function in these small paper disks as if they were inside a living cell," Collins added.

The genetic test kit provides a simple color output by turning the paper from yellow to purple. This change can be recognized within half an hour.

Variants of the test can be used to find out antibiotic resistance genes in bacterial infections or biomarkers of other disease conditions, by changing the input trigger.

According to Collins, Ebola test is currently not suitable for use in the epidemic areas.