- The Washington Times - Friday, June 12, 2015

The Obama administration said Friday it’s inked a $1.8-million contract with a Pennsylvania company to develop a quick-and-easy test for Ebola that could deliver results in a doctor’s office, hospital or field setting within 20 minutes.

The Health and Human Services Department said diagnosing the deadly virus that ravaged West Africa could be as easy as testing for strep throat, requiring only a drop of the patient’s blood or saliva on a test strip.

“Fast and inexpensive point-of-care diagnostics will improve our ability to control Ebola virus disease outbreaks,” said Robin Robinson, director of HHS’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority.

Instant diagnoses would be especially helpful in poor areas that lack medical infrastructure and hospitals, the government said.

Patients could be isolated, limiting the spread of the disease and preventing a repeat of the West African epidemic that began in December 2013 and has killed more than 11,000 people in the hardest-hit countries.

While Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May, the virus continues to spread in neighboring Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The government’s contract with OraSure Technologies in Bethlehem, Pa., will support the work needed to get the tool over to the Food and Drug Administration for approval.

HHS said the contract may be extended to up to 39 months and $10.4 million.

OraSure will also determine if its test can be used postmortem, since the body of someone who dies from the disease can still be highly infectious.

Traditional, hands-on burial rites were blamed in part for Ebola’s rapid spread in West Africa.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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