Ebola virus. Courtesy of CDC
Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) allowed marketing of a rapid diagnostic test (RDT) to detect Ebola virus antigens (proteins) in human blood from certain living individuals and samples from certain recently deceased individuals suspected to have died from Ebola (cadaveric oral fluid). The OraQuick Ebola Rapid Antigen Test is the first rapid diagnostic test the FDA has allowed to be marketed in the U.S. for the Ebola Virus Disease (EVD). The test provides a rapid, presumptive diagnosis that must be confirmed.
“Today’s marketing authorization provides another important tool in the effort to fight Ebola, which continues to be a priority of the U.S. Government, especially as we work with our partners, including the World Health Organization, to help address the current Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),” said Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless, MD. “The current outbreak in the DRC has already killed thousands and the outbreaks in West Africa that began in 2014 tragically killed more than 11,000. Investigational vaccines and therapeutics have shown promising results, but one of the most important tools in stopping these outbreaks is quickly diagnosing patients and supporting safe and dignified burials. This marketing authorization may provide additional assurances to health care professionals seeking to use these types of rapid diagnostics. The ability to use this test to promptly make a presumptive Ebola diagnosis could help providers to more quickly isolate patients and begin treatments that can be potentially life-saving. Additionally, this device could be used to support safe and dignified burials while helping to reduce the risk of transmission during those burials.”
EVD, which is caused by the Ebola virus, is a severe, often fatal disease in humans that can spread through direct contact with blood or body fluids or objects contaminated with body fluids, as well as from the bodies of those who have died from the virus. EVD has led to several large outbreaks in Africa, including the West African Ebola epidemic that began in 2014 and was the largest outbreak of EVD in recorded history, and the ongoing outbreak in the DRC, which is currently the second largest outbreak. Extensive efforts are underway by the Ministry of Health in the DRC to contain the current outbreak with support from the World Health Organization, the U.S. government, and other partners. These measures include campaigns to promote good hygiene, large-scale vaccination campaigns, specialized Ebola treatment centers where those infected or exposed to the virus can receive investigational therapeutics, and comprehensive efforts to trace and prevent the spread of EVD through vaccination campaigns, monitoring for symptoms, diagnostic testing, and implementation of infection prevention and control measures, such as safe and dignified burial procedures.
During the 2014 outbreak, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services declared that circumstances exist justifying the authorization of emergency use of in vitro diagnostics for detection of Ebola virus. At the time, the FDA worked with CDC and test developers to make diagnostic tests, including the OraQuick Ebola Test, available through the Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) pathway. This pathway allows the FDA to temporarily authorize the use of unapproved medical products to address a public health emergency when specific conditions are met, including that there are no adequate, approved and available alternatives to the product for diagnosing, preventing, or treating the disease or condition. The FDA has authorized a number of diagnostic tests for EVD under the EUA pathway to assist with the public health response. Today’s marketing authorization of the first EVD presumptive rapid diagnostic test for Ebola virus antigens through the De Novo review pathway reflects the ongoing collaboration between the U.S. Government and test developers to gather additional data on EUA products.
For the OraQuick Ebola Test submission, the FDA reviewed data from multiple clinical studies of blood samples and cadaveric oral fluid from the 2014 West African outbreak and from a variety of analytical studies. Based on these data, the FDA determined that general and special controls were necessary to provide a reasonable assurance of the safety and effectiveness of the OraQuick Ebola Test when intended to identify antigens associated with Ebola virus in blood from symptomatic patients and oral fluid of cadavers. The amount of Ebola virus when patients have severe symptoms of EVD is usually high; however, the amount of virus in samples taken early after infection when symptoms are not present yet or taken early during the course of EVD when symptoms are mild can be very low. The studies demonstrated the importance of testing only symptomatic individuals so that the amount of virus is high enough to be detectable by this test. Therefore, the OraQuick Ebola Test is intended for use in patients suspected of and with signs or symptoms consistent with EVD, and when the patient meets the CDC’s Ebola virus epidemiological criteria, such as history of residence in or travel to a geographic region with active EVD transmission at the time of travel. The OraQuick Ebola Test is not intended to be used for general Ebola infection screening (e.g., airport screening) or testing of individuals at risk of exposure without observable signs of infection.
The OraQuick Ebola Test may also be used in recently deceased individuals (cadaveric oral fluid) with epidemiological risk factors (including geographic locations with high prevalence of EVD) suspected to have died of EVD to inform decisions on safe handling of cadavers to prevent disease transmission.
Negative results do not rule out Ebola virus infection. The definitive identification of EVD requires additional testing and confirmation procedures (such as by a more sensitive but less rapid polymerase chain reaction test) and in consultation with public health and/or other authorities to whom reporting is required.
The OraQuick Ebola Test was reviewed under the De Novo premarket review pathway, a regulatory pathway for low-to-moderate-risk devices of a new type. Along with this marketing authorization, the FDA is establishing criteria, called special controls, that determine the requirements for demonstrating accuracy, reliability and effectiveness of tests intended to identify Ebola virus antigens. These special controls, when met along with general controls, provide a reasonable assurance of safety and effectiveness for tests of this type. This action also creates a new regulatory classification, which means that subsequent devices of the same type with the same intended use may go through the FDA’s 510(k) pathway, whereby devices can obtain clearance by demonstrating substantial equivalence to a predicate device.
The OraQuick Ebola Test was granted Breakthrough Device designation, meaning the FDA provided intensive interaction and guidance to the company on efficient device development, to expedite evidence generation and the agency’s review of the device. To qualify for such designation, a device must provide for more effective treatment or diagnosis of a life-threatening or irreversibly debilitating disease or condition, and meet one of the following criteria: the device must represent a breakthrough technology; there must be no approved or cleared alternatives; the device must offer significant advantages over existing approved or cleared alternatives; or the availability of the device is in the best interest of patients.
The FDA granted marketing authorization of the OraQuick Ebola Test to OraSure Technologies, Inc.
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