Ebola identification easier thanks to Coast researcher

EBOLA BATTLE: A USC computer could join the fight against the deadly virus sweeping Africa.
EBOLA BATTLE: A USC computer could join the fight against the deadly virus sweeping Africa. Sunday Alamba

A UNIVERSITY of the Sunshine Coast researcher has created a world first "DNA computer" that can identify the presence of the world's deadliest virus, Ebola, and its equally serious relative, Marburg.

The news is timely as health authorities in western Africa battle the largest ever outbreak of Ebola, having already killed about 700 people.

Senior lecturer in molecular engineering Dr Joanne Macdonald has built a computer that uses molecular circuitry to identify synthetic DNA that mimics the Ebola and Marburg viruses.

It's hoped the research will lead to cost-effective methods to identify the presence of the viruses and allow prompt treatment.

"We made synthetic DNA that mimics a short part of the Ebola virus and the Marburg virus and we demonstrated that our computer circuit could diagnose and tell the difference between them," Dr Macdonald said.

"The computer screen displays a pink E for Ebola or a green M for Marburg."

While the research is in its infancy, it has massive potential applications for expansion to include the identification of other viruses.

Dr Macdonald is working on similar identifiers for hendra and the Australian bat lyssavirus.

Topics:  dna ebola sunshine coast

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