The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has developed a new enterovirus 71 (EV71) screening reagent that can detect the virus from a drop of blood in 30 minutes.
The new test is far more efficient than conventional screening methods because the blood sample does not have to be sent to a laboratory to be tested, Wu Ho-sheng (吳和生), director of the CDC’s Research and Diagnostic Center, said earlier this week.
Conventional screening methods require at least 3cc to 5cc of blood and the test takes one to two weeks because the blood serum needs to be separated and tested by machines, Wu said.
The new screening reagent works along the same principle as a pregnancy test kit. If a line appears 30 minutes after a drop of blood is dipped onto the test plate, it is an indication that the person is enterovirus positive, Wu said.
While quick, the test is still only 70 percent accurate and cannot be done unless a person has had a fever for two to three days, Wu added.
From June 27 last year to the present, a total of 57 severe cases of the dangerous stomach bug have been reported and three children have died, CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said.
In 1998, when Taiwan suffered one of its most severe EV71 epidemics, a surge of cases was observed in March and the number of cases peaked in May, Chou said.
However, from late last year, even as the incidence of other types of enterovirus infections has declined, the virus has been resilient against cold weather as seen by the rising number of EV71 cases, which could point to a major outbreak in spring, Chou said.
There has not been a major outbreak of the disease in the last three years, but one could occur in March to April this year, possibly infecting 100,000 to 200,000 children, CDC officials warned.
They hoped the new screening reagent could be commercialized and help screen for severe cases in their early stages, enabling authorities to take preventive measures to help control the spread of the disease.