Corgenix Medical Corp, Denver, Colo, reports that its first test kits for viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) detection have completed initial clinical testing in West Africa and could soon help diagnose and prevent the spread of dangerous VHFs such as Lassa fever.

Corgenix is part of a collaborative group that has developed and patented new recombinant proteins for Lassa virus. Lassa fever, a serious viral infection spread by contact with infected rodents, is estimated to infect up to 500,000 people a year across West Africa, resulting in some 5,000 deaths. Current tests are expensive, not commercially available, can take days to return results, and usually require the culture of live Lassa virus in a high-containment lab to produce reagents.

The new tests can be run in 90 minutes and don’t require specially designed and engineered Biosafety Level 4 (BSL-4) labs operated by specially trained personnel.

The researchers plan to expand the program to address other important infectious agents involving clinical health issues and threats of bioterrorism, such as Ebola, Marburg, and other hemorrhagic fever viruses.

The clinical test kits were developed under a $3.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health. Corgenix collaborated with Tulane University, the Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases, BioFactura Inc, Autoimmune Technologies LLC, and partners in West Africa.

Under the NIH grant, Tulane is leading a three-year study designed to develop better tests for VHFs, some of which are caused by arenaviruses, a family of viruses that are potential bioterrorism agents due to their high fatality rate and ease of transmission from person-to-person.

The first patent application from the collaboration—Soluble and Membrane-Anchored Forms of Lassa Virus Subunit Proteins—has been submitted.