PhD students from WUT invented a rapid test for Lassa virus

Photo of the rapid test for Lassa virus

VIRITEST works similarly to the coronavirus test

It is biodegradable and provides the result after 15 minutes – such a test detecting the virus that causes Lassa hemorrhagic fever was developed by a team of PhD students from the Warsaw University of Technology.  

– According to the WHO, this virus has the highest potential to result in an epidemic with a mortality rate that could be as high as 50%. – points out Joanna Baran, the group's leader. – The risk is all the greater as we currently have neither an effective cure for the virus nor a vaccine.  

Lassa virus can enter the human body through contact with excreta of rats, as well as infected or sick people. It can be airborne, foodborne, and sexually transmitted. It causes hemorrhagic fever – a disease that occurs mainly in West Africa, but due to its unique infectiousness and ease of transmission, remains dangerous for all other regions of the world. The virus appeared in Europe at the beginning of 2022.

Patients experience acute symptoms including fever, headaches, muscle and abdominal pain, sore throat, as well as vomiting, diarrhea, and chest pain. White-yellow rashes, blisters, and ulcers might appear on the tonsils. There may also be hemorrhagic symptoms.

– In our opinion, the best way to reduce the spread of the virus is preventive testing – says Joanna Baran.  

Currently, the only available tests are the laboratory ones, which are quite expensive (they cost around 2,5 euros) and give results after two working days at the earliest.  

VIRITEST is an antigen test that is based on the interaction of antibody–antigen. It comes in the shape of a compact, light-weight cigarette holder, into which a patient's saliva sample is placed. The entire test is made of biodegradable materials, and the typically used polypropylene has been replaced with biodegradable polyester.  

– After applying the patient's sample, the test works similarly to coronavirus tests in that the sample travels up the test strip and the strips indicate the result — two in the case of a positive test and one in the case of a negative test – explains Joanna Baran. – As carbon nanoparticles are the indicator, the result is displayed in black.  

At the moment, there are no similar tests, as confirmed by the analysis of patent purity conducted by the team.  

– We plan to patent our technology – states Joanna Baran. 

The Scienceporium team is responsible for the new Lassa virus test idea: Joanna Baran – leader, Jakub Sikora, Mohammed Edawdi, Varun Nair Gopalakrishnan and Laboni Manna. The group worked as part of MedTech-Athon – a program for doctoral students from the Warsaw University of Technology, aimed at creating solutions to be used in the field of medicine.