Ebola virus disease is a severe and often fatal disease in humans. The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission. While case fatality rates have varied throughout different outbreaks, the average fatality rate is around 50%. The most recent 2014-2016 outbreak was the most devastating Ebola outbreak on record, with over 28,616 cases and more than 11,310 fatalities.

Ebola is introduced into the human population through close contact with the blood, secretions, organs or other bodily fluids of infected animals such as chimpanzees, gorillas, fruit bats and monkeys. Ebola then spreads through human-to-human transmission via direct contact (through broken skin or mucous membranes) with bodily fluids of infected people, and with surfaces and materials (e.g. bedding, clothing) contaminated with these fluids. Burial ceremonies that involve direct contact with the body of the deceased can also contribute in the transmission of Ebola, as people remain infectious as long as their body contains the virus.

The 2014-2016 outbreak highlighted the many challenges and complexity of managing an Ebola outbreak. One key to successfully preventing outbreaks from spreading is the ability to rapidly and accurately diagnose Ebola patients, so they can receive proper care and be isolated to prevent further transmission. Many efforts throughout the research community are focused on development of point-of-care Ebola diagnostics that can be used at the patient bedside for rapid diagnosis. A real challenge that has plagued many point-of-care assays to date is a lack of required sensitivity to diagnose Ebola early in the course of infection, when patients first present as symptomatic. Research at the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, AuCoin & Kozel Laboratories aims to produce a rapid Ebola virus test that has the sensitivity to allow for diagnosis in the early stages of disease. This is no small task. Great effort at within our laboratory has been put towards the development of high affinity monoclonal antibodies that can be employed in a rapid point-of-care lateral flow immunoassay for diagnosis of Ebola virus. Initial studies recently completed have shown the our Ebola diagnostic has improved sensitivity. On-going studies include further validation and evaluation of multiple sample concentration methods for additional improvement in sensitivity.  

Project Investigator: David P. AuCoin, Ph.D.

Grant support: This work has been supported solely by the Department of Homeland Security, DHS contract HSHQDC-15-C-B0067, 2015-2018.