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Local researchers working to develop ebola test

A New Orleans-based company working on infectious diseases has been awarded part of a $2.9 million grant to develop diagnostic tests for the ebola virus.

Autoimmune Technologies is part of a worldwide group that's on the ground in West Africa, working closely with Tulane's School of Medicine. Dr. Robert Garry works closely with Autoimmune Technologies to boost development of a diagnostic test for the ebola virus.

"We want to make a test, like a pregnancy test, where you can put a little drop of blood on the test strip, wait a few minutes and come up with the answer," Garry said.

Currently identifying ebola is a difficult process that requires blood tests, lab equipment and precious time.

"You need expensive machines," Garry said. "There are few in Africa, and you need people from outside who have the experience."

Autoimmune Technologies, which operates out of labs at Tulane and Children's Hospital, is part of a worldwide consortium that includes doctors from Tulane, Harvard, the Scripps institute, and the University of Texas working with partners in West Africa, where ebola has claimed nearly 1,000 lives.

"Unfortunately, I think this outbreak is going to continue for a long period of time," Garry said. "We will need to deploy a lot of resources and expertise to get this under control. This will take time."

For Garry, fighting diseases like ebola is his life's work, and he admits this outbreak has hit close to home. Garry worked closely with Dr. Kumar Khan, who died from ebola last month in Sierra Leone after Garry returned to the U.S.

"His infection with ebola is a great loss to our program," Garry said. "We need to carry forward with Dr. Khan's legacy."

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