Early diagnosis leads to treatment and care. Prompt treatment and care helps to halt the spread of infectious disease. This is why diagnostic tests are essential not only for identifying but also for containing disease outbreaks.
The availability of a rapid diagnostic test for Ebola without requirements for complex lab equipment or highly trained staff would have been a game changer in the recent Ebola epidemic that killed more than 11 000 people.
Since 2014, FIND has worked with WHO, MSF and many other partners to rapidly facilitate the development and evaluation of improved diagnostics for Ebola. FIND is now working to implement the most impactful of these new tests in affected countries in West Africa.
In addition to helping countries “get to zero” in the Ebola outbreak and to strengthen ongoing disease surveillance, FIND now aims to work with partners to develop a diagnostics preparedness mechanism to mount an effective and rapid diagnostic response to future outbreaks of fatal diseases such as Ebola.
One part of this equation is the selection of mobile technologies that have the capacity to move with an outbreak as it flares in new and sometimes remote locations.
Another is pre-establishing logistical, political, financial and technical agreements and solutions that can allow much of the diagnostics development work to be done before rather than during outbreaks.
In the absence of a vaccine or an effective drug treatment for Ebola, early and rapid diagnosis is essential to control the spread of the disease. Currently available diagnostics do not allow for early laboratory diagnosis of Ebola in the community. However, new integrated diagnostic systems developed in the last five to ten years could greatly simplify testing.
At FIND, we have made support for fast-tracking new Ebola diagnostics one of our priorities, and we are working closely with the World Health Organization (WHO) on the Ebola Diagnostics Access Collaboration (EDAC).
The EDAC works to ease the way for the accelerated development and evaluation of Ebola diagnostics. FIND and WHO produced important supporting resources including a situational assessment, outlining the epidemic, the disease, and an analysis of the diagnostic landscape, and a Target Product Profile (TPP), which specifies the necessary and optimal characteristics for newly developed Ebola diagnostics.