Shenzhen company develops kit to test for Ebola virus, report says

PLA scientists are helping the company synthesise a chemical solution that would change colour in the presence of the deadly virus

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 2:51pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 14 August, 2014, 6:21pm

A Shenzhen-based company has developed a field test kit that can quickly identify the Ebola virus, People’s Daily reports, as China is trying a range of countermeasures against the possible spread of the deadly virus on the mainland.

BGI, the world’s largest genomics research institution, is using technical assistance from People’s Liberation Army’s Academy of Military Medical Sciences to synthesise a liquid chemical solution that would change colour if the unique nucleic acid of the Ebola viral strain is present.

The state newspaper said the test kit could be massively deployed when the virus was detected on the mainland.

The test kits are being produced in Wuhan, Hubei, said a BGI spokeswoman. Major cities such as Beijing have 10,000 sets each.

However, mass production of the kits has not begun because they still need final approval from national food and drug safety authorities, said the spokeswoman, who asked that her name not be used.

“The US FDA [Food and Drug Administration] issued a special permit for an Ebola test kit last week,” she said. “We have submitted a request for special approval to the China Food and Drug Administration with hope that they will respond as efficiently as the US FDA to this public health emergency.

“If the infection zones request it, we can begin mass production.”

BGI had been working with military research institutes on the Ebola virus for years, which enabled it to come up with a test kit shortly after the outbreak in West Africa, the spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the National Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has obtained key Ebola virus genes for analysis and vaccine development from Genewiz, a US-based genomics service company.

The genes were synthesised at the company’s branch in Suzhou, Jiangsu, under the commission of the CDC and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, according to a statement on Genewiz’s website.

Genewiz president Dr Amy Liao said in the statement that “synthesising the Ebola virus genes is the foundation for studying the pathogenic function and crystal structure of the viral proteins”.

“This information can help researchers gain a better understanding of the pathogenesis and transmission mechanisms quickly,” she added.

In Beijing, 10 ambulances with quarantine capability stationed at the Beijing Emergency Medical Centre were on 24-hour standby to transport suspected Ebola infected patients, according to the Beijing Morning News.

Traffic authorities will set up an emergency lane to help transport these patients, the municipal government said.

Two hospitals, Youan and Ditan, have been designated to admit Ebola victims.

Suspected patients would be isolated and diagnosed by a special committee of medical experts. Once confirmed, the patients would receive various treatments, including Chinese herbal medicine.

The municipal government also said it would intensify medical checks on travellers from infected regions in West Africa and closely monitor their health conditions.

A military research institute is using the test kit to screen some suspected patients from Africa. The testing procedure, from sample taking to result analysis, takes three to four hours.