The MOD’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) has an active research programme on Ebola and has developed expertise in handling and manipulating the virus. It has supported the UK effort in West Africa by providing advice on the biological and physical aspects of the virus, as well as deploying highly skilled research scientists to the diagnostic laboratory at the Kerry Town Ebola Treatment Unit in Sierra Leone.
Dstl’s Senior Scientific Adviser Roman Lukaszewski said:
“Dstl has the unique technical capability to enable the UK to deliver lifesaving support to those affected by Ebola. We have the expertise and the latest technologies to help bring the situation in West Africa to a conclusion and to help prepare the response for potential future outbreaks.”
Dstl has been working closely with industry partner BBI Detection to provide Public Health England (PHE), which is co-ordinating the UK response, with simple, easy to use diagnostic devices to identify individuals infected with the virus.
More than 10,000 of the portable devices have been provided to PHE, with several hundred of the prototypes being used by medics in Sierra Leone, helping them to assess which individuals to isolate.
Effective triage and quarantine is essential to limit the spread of the virus. This low burden screen test – the UK Ebola Lateral Flow Device – was developed by Dstl and BBI Detection with funding from the Department for International Development. The device has been evaluated in Sierra Leone by PHE to determine its utility in the outbreak setting. Of the 138 participants enrolled in the testing, a 100% detection rate was achieved with accurate results being achieved in approximately 15 minutes.*
BBI Detection is licensed by Dstl’s technology transfer company, Ploughshare Innovations Limited, to market the antibodies used in the devices, helping UK industry to rapidly contribute to the mitigation of an Ebola outbreak, if required.