A Navy scientist tests Ebola in Liberia. Credit: Getty A Navy scientist tests Ebola in Liberia.
Credit: Getty

Two Atlanta college students say they have an idea for a simple test that would quickly diagnosis the Ebola virus - and it all started as an extra credit project for their Introduction to Biology class.

Brian Goldstone and Rostam Zafari are both freshmen pre-med students at Emory University. On the first day of class this semester their professor Rachelle Spell suggested that they research the methods currently used to identify Ebola and see if they could come up with their own method to diagnosis the deadly virus.

Emory University Hospital successfully treated two Americans who had contracted the disease while working in Liberia, an event that inspired Professor Spell to come up with the assignment.


“I suggested that they think about something that could be used in the field, to essentially design a very effective, safe and cheap test for Ebola,” she recently told the Emory News Center.

After some brainstorming, Goldstone and Zafari came up with a plan to develop Rapid Ebola Detection Strips (or REDS) which, if successful, would identify the virus in under an hour. The concept of the test is quite simple: after putting a blood sample onto the strip, the strip would change color depending on the diagnosis. Both students stress that early detection is key to combating the virus.

“The sooner we can detect it, the less it spreads and the more lives we save,” Zafari told the News Center. “If we can get them before they show symptoms, we can really curb the impact of the virus.”

Funding the project

Goldstone and Zafari are currently working on building a prototype of the strips. In September, the students started a crowdfunding campaign on the popular site Indiegogo to raise money for further research. They successfully met their goal of $14,500.

Follow Lakshmi Gandhi on Twitter @LakshmiGandhi.

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