Photo of two rectangular boxes containing a set of paper strips.

MIT News reports: “A new paper diagnostic device can detect Ebola as well as other viral hemorrhagic fevers in about 10 minutes. The device (pictured here) has silver nanoparticles of different colors that indicate different diseases. On the left is the unused device, opened to reveal the contents inside. On the right, the device has been used for diagnosis; the colored bands show positive tests.” (Photo by Jose Gomez-Marquez, Helena de Puig, and Chun-Wan Yen.)

Today, MIT News reports on a simple paper strip test developed by MIT researchers that can diagnose Ebola and other fevers within 10 minutes.

When diagnosing a case of Ebola, time is of the essence. However, existing diagnostic tests take at least a day or two to yield results, preventing health care workers from quickly determining whether a patient needs immediate treatment and isolation.

A new test from MIT researchers could change that: The device, a simple paper strip similar to a pregnancy test, can rapidly diagnose Ebola, as well as other viral hemorrhagic fevers such as yellow fever and dengue fever.

“As we saw with the recent Ebola outbreak, sometimes people present with symptoms and it’s not clear what they have,” says Kimberly Hamad-Schifferli, a visiting scientist in MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering and a member of the technical staff at MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory. “We wanted to come up with a rapid diagnostic that could differentiate between different diseases.”

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With their low cost and ease of use, paper diagnostic and microfluidic technologies like this device offer great promise for addressing global health challenges. Learn more with these related courses on OCW.

SP.725 D-Lab: Medical Technologies for the Developing World was taught by Jose Gomez-Marquez, one of the researchers on this new device. The course explores the current state of global health challenges and teaches how to design medical technologies that address those problems. Lab topics include field diagnostics and microfluidics.

For a deeper dive into the technology, try 6.S079 NanomakerYou can see paper microfluidics being built and in operation with a tutorial video and the associated lab materials.

Preview some health diagnostics of the future with MAS.S963 Engineering Health: Towards the Tricorder. In this course, students learned to fabricate, remix, and design detection and monitoring devices for health, inspired by the Qualcomm Tricorder X-Prize competition. (By the way, one of the ten finalist teams in that competition is led by Dr. Eugene Chan, an alumnus of the Harvard-MIT Health Sciences and Technology (HST) program.)

Finally, try these courses for complementary perspectives on global health: from social & ethical concerns (HST.934J Introduction to Global Medicine: Bioscience, Technologies, Disparities, Strategies) to improving care via better business models (15.S07 Global Health Lab) and innovative mobile information services (HST.S14 Health Information Systems to Improve Quality of Care in Resource-Poor Settings).