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Ebola and Lassa viruses: forging ahead with better diagnoses

We are very excited to receive EU funding as part of a consortium to develop an innovative and disposable point-of-care patch for diagnosing Ebola and Lassa viruses. These diseases were selected due to their potential pandemic threat, high mortality rates, lack of vaccines / treatments, and prevalence in resource-limited settings.

Bangui Epi-control Geoportal

The Ebola virus has an average case fatality rate of around 50%, according to the World Health Organization. Good outbreak control is essential. Lassa fever, though less deadly with a 1% fatality rate, is an acute viral haemorrhagic illness. It is caused by exposure to food or household items contaminated by infected Mastomys rats; it’s endemic in the rodent population in parts of West Africa. For both illnesses, the integration of nano-technological advancement, micro-needle technology, and our data-driven AI aims to improve virus detection and intervention strategies.

How Does the Patch Work?

The DECIPHER (Decentralised Microfluidic In Vitro Diagnostic Patch for Pandemic Control) is applied as a skin patch. Using nano-technological innovations, the patch can sample patients’ blood in a non-invasive manner via micro needles. This promises greater patient comfort and compliance.

Embedded within the patch is an integrated Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test, which automates the detection of viral genetic material. The results of the PCR test are then processed using a portable glucose meter, providing real-time readings that indicate the presence and quantity of the virus in the patient's bloodstream. These measurements offer clinicians essential insights for treatment decisions and patient management.

Our Role: Data Integration and Risk Modelling

We’ll play a pivotal role in this initiative by integrating field test results with socioeconomic and contextual data. The goal is to create predictive models that can assess the risk of disease spread in regions not yet subjected to testing campaigns. By leveraging epidemiological expertise and validation, we aim to ensure these models are accurate and generalisable. In this way, we can identify high-risk areas in these countries. By forecasting disease risk in advance, public health officials can allocate resources, such as tests and interventions, more effectively. This should play a role in preventing potential outbreaks.

In addition, real-time dashboards provide our health partners with up-to-date projections of disease burdens and regions at risk. Powered by artificial intelligence, these tools enable decision makers to take prompt actions to mitigate the spread of viruses across borders. The combination of our data-driven insights and real-time monitoring enhances the efficiency of response efforts.

In conclusion, we are very pleased to have received this funding as the DECIPHER project aligns with the goals of pandemic preparedness by providing advanced diagnostic and AI tools to facilitate the early and accurate detection of debilitating infectious diseases like Ebola and Lassa viruses.


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