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IAEA Joins Effort to Stem Ebola Outbreak

Technology for the rapid diagnosis of Ebola will soon be delivered to Sierra Leone by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). It will also later be supplied to Liberia and Guinea.

In response to a UN Security Council appeal and a request from Sierra Leone, the IAEA said it will deliver "in the coming weeks" diagnostic technology known as Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction (RT-PCR). The IAEA will provide the west African country with an RT-PCR machine, cooling systems, biosecurity equipment, diagnostic kits and other materials. This technology allows Ebola to be detected within hours, unlike other diagnostic techniques which take several days.

Early diagnosis of Ebola, if combined with appropriate medical care, increases the victims' chance and survival and helps cut the spread of the disease by making it possible to isolate and treat patients earlier.

RT-PCR - instrumental in the global eradication of rinderpest in livestock - initially used radioactive isotopes as markers in the process that determines whether the virus is present in a sample. However, subsequent refining of the method has led to the possibility to use fluorescent, instead of radioactive, markers for screening purposes.

The IAEA said that its support "initiates broader IAEA support to African Member States to strengthen their technological abilities to detect diseases transmitted from animals to humans."

The IAEA plans to extend such support to Liberia and Guinea, which have also been hit by the Ebola outbreak.

IAEA director general Yukiya Amano said: "Transfer of nuclear-related technologies is a key part of the Agency's work, and we have cooperated with Member States for years to develop and strengthen their capacity to use this nuclear-derived technology."

He added, "With this additional support, the Agency makes a small but effective contribution to global efforts to fight the ongoing Ebola outbreak."
According to the World Health Organization, as of 14 October a total of 8914 cases had been reported in the latest outbreak of Ebola. The number of reported deaths is 4447.

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