Misaki Wayengera
Senior Lecturer, Unit of Genetics and Genomics, Makerere University

Ideally, every health worker handling patients with febrile illnesses in equatorial Africa should have the luxury to test these patients. Thus, all doctors in the tropics - plus infectious disease experts in the temperate regions - should use our test. This translates to about 500 million tests per year.

Dr. Misaki Wayengera created a groundbreaking cheap paper strip test to rapidly detect filoviruses including Ebola and Marburg. In addition to being a medical doctor, Wayengera is a skilled researcher with experience in the fields of immunology, vaccinology, clinical microbiology and genetics. His research focuses on identifying new molecular targets for research and development of diagnostics, therapeutics and vaccines, with the goal of delivering new tools to clinicians at the forefront of epidemics. 

Wayengera noticed that existing technologies for filovirus detection were not suited for point-of-care use because they are too expensive, slow, or required a laboratory with trained staff, which do not exist in many of the remote villages where initial cases of filoviruses such as Ebola or Marbug occur. Given that filoviruses have the potential for regional and international spread and early detection is necessary for swift response, Wayengera created the Pan-Filovirus Rapid Diagnostic Test (RDT). Unlike other tests, this one is cheap, affordable, rapid (yielding results in 2 to 5 minutes) and does not require a power source or laboratory. The RDT can be easily used in remote environments and used by anyone with basic user information, including the public, community health workers, nurses and doctors. 

When used on samples collected from Ebola survivors, the test was proven to have appreciable sensitivity and specificity. Swift diagnosis and response is critical to stop an outbreak of Ebola and other filoviruses and this groundbreaking test allows for more lead time in slowing a potential outbreak. The ready-to-scale innovation was recently recognized by the World Health Organization as one of the top 30 innovations with the most potential for changing the paradigm in African Health Care systems, out of 2471 applicants to the World Health Organization Africa Innovation Challenge.