SA scientist works to diagnose Ebola sooner

Says earlier quarantine can nip an outbreak in the bud

SAN ANTONIO – The Ebola virus is under the microscope at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute, as scientists zero in on a way to diagnose the disease earlier.

"The idea of our work is to come up with a really exquisitely sensitive diagnostic that can detect early stages of infection," said Dr. Andrew Hayhurst.

Hayhurst was among the speakers Friday at the University of Texas at San Antonio Research Conference.

Currently, people are not diagnosed until they show symptoms, which typically include a fever. And symptoms may not show up for as long as two to three weeks after exposure.

"The idea is, if you have an outbreak, if you can identify people already infected, you can quarantine them earlier," Hayhurst said. "Even if they don't show symptoms, they're about to show symptoms, so you can nip that outbreak in the bud."

While the case of the Dallas man who brought the Ebola virus from West Africa to Texas is uncomfortably close to home for some, Hayhurst pointed out that healthcare and cultural practices like burials are vastly different in America than in West Africa.

"I think it's good to be educated and to be informed about the situation," he said. "I'm not sure it's going to do anyone any good to be scared."

As far as a treatment or cure, Hayhurst said there are promising vaccine and  therapeutic candidates. Ramping up those efforts, he said, calls for increased funding.

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