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Contest Seeks Novel Tools for the Fight Against Ebola

NEW YORK TIMES  by Donald G. McNeil, Jr.                                                                              Dec. 13, 2014

NEW YORK --The well-prepared Ebola fighter in West Africa may soon have some new options: protective gear that zips off like a wet suit, ice-cold underwear to make life inside the sweltering suits more bearable, or lotions that go on like bug spray and kill or repel the lethal virus.

A prototype for one of the protective suits in contention for the U.S.A.I.D. "Grand Challenges" award. Credit John Hopkins University/Jhpiego

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Ebola experts seek to expand testing

A major problem is that relatively few laboratories in West Africa have the necessary equipment and personnel to test blood samples from people thought to have Ebola (see ‘Delayed diagnoses’). But that could soon change. Experts are gathering in Geneva, Switzerland, on 12 December to work out which diagnostic tools could be used wherever Ebola strikes.

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Rapid Ebola test is focus of NIH grant to Rutgers scientist

REPORTS Of RESEARCH ON TWO METHODS OF RAPID TESTING FOR EBOLA

(Two items, scroll down)

MEDICAL PRESS                                                                                     Dec. 8, 2014

Rutgers researcher David Alland, working with the California biotechnology company Cepheid, has received a grant of nearly $640,000 from the National Institutes of Health to develop a rapid test to diagnose Ebola as well as other viruses that can cause symptoms similar to Ebola.

Researchers will adapt this cartridge, now used worldwide for tuberculosis screenings, to collect and test samples from potential Ebola patients. Credit: John Emerson

Alland, a professor of medicine and associate dean for clinical research at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and the principal investigator of the project, says would be able to take the test to small villages and other remote locations where the spread of Ebola has been especially rampant and diagnose patients where they live...

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What Ebola Is Teaching Us About Hard Trends

WIRED     Essay by David Burris                                                                                        Dec. 14, 2014

...Deadly and infectious viruses such as Ebola are an inevitable and unavoidable fact of nature. In other words, they are examples of a Hard Trend. And they demand new innovations in order to combat them.

...the deadly force of Ebola is the kind of imminent threat that inspires human minds to new heights. It teaches us that Hard Trends come at us fast and provide the catalyst to overcome inertia and bring about technological innovations.

NIAID/Flickr

Communication is key to mobilizing populations in countries affected by Ebola. In order to treat the sick and prevent the spread of the disease, healthcare workers need to be able to coordinate with people on the frontline and know where to send supplies. At the moment, telecommunications technologies are not keeping pace with the intense demands that Ebola creates.

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To halt Ebola's spread, researchers race for data

DISCOVER MAGAZINE    By Kari Lydersen                                                                              Dec. 2, 2014
.....redicting the trajectory of Ebola rather than playing catching-up could do much to help prevent and contain the disease. Some experts have called for prioritizing mobile treatment units that can be quickly relocated to the spots most needed. Figuring out where Ebola is likely to strike next or finding emerging hot spots early on would be key to the placement of these treatment centers.

But such modeling requires data, and lots of it.  And for stressed healthcare workers on the ground and government and non-profit agencies scrambling to combat a raging epidemic, collecting and disseminating data is often not a high priority.

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U.S. Buys Up Ebola Gear, Leaving Little for Africa

Manufacturers Strain to Meet Demand Amid Rising Anxiety

WALL STREET JOURNAL                                                                                                       Nov. 25, 2014
 By Drew Hinshaw in Accra, Ghana, and Jacob Bunge in Chicago

Protective suits were running low in Sierra Leone this month, when a Christian charity decided to ship some over. The charity turned to American medical-wear suppliers, which came back with bad news: The suits needed to treat Ebola are running low in America, too.

A worker wearing Personal Protective Equipment has his name written on his suit before leaving an Ebola treatment center in Guinea last week. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

“There’s been some sleepless nights,” said Jennifer Mounsey, director of corporate engagement for World Vision, the Christian humanitarian group based in Monrovia, Calif. “We’re all sweating bullets.”

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The suit designed to come between NHS Ebola workers and death

THE TELEGRAPH     By Rosa  Silverman                                                                                      Nov.23, 2014

With its domed helmet, protective outer apron and thick boots, this is the kit National Health Service medics are depending on to save their lives as they fight Ebola in Africa.

More than 30 volunteers from the UK arrived in Sierra Leone today, prepared to join the effort to combat the deadly virus.

The medics, who came from across Britain and flew from London’s Heathrow airport on Saturday, were the first batch of NHS volunteers to be deployed by the Government after more than a thousand came forward to offer their services.

Among them are GPs, nurses, psychiatrists and emergency medicine consultants, all of whom will work in treatment centres built by British Army Royal Engineers and funded by the Department for International Development.

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Researchers Develop Real-Time Monitoring for Ebola Outbreaks

VOICE OF AMERICA                                                                                                        Nov. 20, 2014
By Joe DeCapua
Knowing where the Ebola hot spots are in a country is crucial to getting an outbreak quickly under control. Many have criticized the initial slow response to the West Africa outbreak, saying it’s a big reason the virus quickly spread. Now, a German research center is developing a project to monitor Ebola and other outbreaks in real time.

Professor Gérard Krause said the new project – called EBOKON – uses real-time monitoring to better manage an outbreak.Krause is head of the Department of Epidemiology at the Helmholtz Center for Infection Research – and EBOKON project leader for the German Center for Infection Research....

He said, “This is an information technology tool that we are developing together with colleagues from Nigeria that will take care of all those management aspects.”

The EBOKON project calls for setting up a command center, so to speak, in the capital of affected countries. Then health workers would use cellphones to relay in real time information on suspected cases around the country.

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WHO plans to speed development of Ebola rapid test

CENTER FOR INFECTIOUS DISEASE RESEARCH AND POLICY
By Lisa Schnirring                                               Nov.18, 2014

Quicker and simpler diagnostic tests for Ebola could go a long way in helping break chains of disease transmission in West Africa's outbreak region, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today, as it unveiled two new initiatives to expedite their development.

The WHO said it hopes new efforts—similar to those under way to test and deliver an Ebola vaccine—can compress the development of a rapid test in months instead of years.

A Navy worker extracts RNA from a patient sample at a Naval mobile lab in Liberia. US Army Africa

Standard reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) tests used in mobile and other labs in the outbreak are very accurate when conducted by trained staff, but they require a full tube of blood, take 2 to 6 hours to get a result, and costs around $100 per test, the WHO said today in a statement....

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Why mobile data to prevent Ebola has not yet been released

THE ECONOMIST                                                                                Nov.9, 2014

The number of new cases of Ebola in west Africa is decreasing, suggesting that quickly-enacted emergency precautions have so far been successful. Yet there is a valuable tool that epidemiologists would like to use to track the disease and help stamp it out: data from mobile phones.

These "call data records" identify where the device is and has been, along with its proximity to other devices, among other things. It lets experts infer, with empirical data and in real-time, where people are, and how many, and where they are probably headed. Yet despite talks among researchers, phone companies, governments—and even UN agencies and the GSMA, the mobile-industry’s trade association—the records have not yet been released. Why not?

It is not for a lack of utility. A bevvy of cases already underscore the data’s usefulness.....

If the data are so helpful, why are they not used? Several factors are to blame....

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