Scientists have announced trials of a rapid Ebola test in Guinea designed to diagnose victims faster, as health professionals try to curb the spread of the virus that has killed more than 1,200 people there.

British researchers who developed the 15-minute test said on Friday that it was six times faster than others currently in use and, if successful, that it could help medical staff identify and isolate confirmed Ebola patients faster and start treating them sooner.

"A reliable, 15-minute test that can confirm cases of Ebola would be a key tool for effective management of the Ebola outbreak," Val Snewin of the Wellcome Trust said.

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"It not only gives patients a better chance of survival, but it prevents transmission of the virus to other people."

The test was designed to be suitable for remote field hospitals where electricity and cold storage are often scarce.

Hollande visit

The announcement came as French President Francois Hollande arrived in the capital, Conakry, becoming the first Western leader to visit a country devastated by the epidemic.

Hollande said he was bringing with him a message of solidarity and confidence to healthcare workers who "take risks to ensure the highest quality care".

The French leader visited healthcare workers at Conakry's Donka hospital, and pledged $125m towards the fight against the outbreak. Paris also pledged to set up two training centres for health workers, one in France and one in Guinea.

Hollande's visit comes amid heightened tensions in Guinea over the government's handling of the Ebola crisis and criticism over curbs to free speech.

Guinean President Alpha Conde's government has faced criticism over its handling  of the outbreak and on Wednesday justified the use of force to curb the spread in rural areas.

"There are still people who think Ebola is fiction," Conde said. "If people don't want to be treated we will use force because we won't allow the illness to spread despite all our efforts."

Press advocacy organisation Reporters Without Borders has voiced concern about attacks on press freedom under the pretext of the fight against Ebola.

Ebola has ravaged Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone; infecting nearly 16,000 people and claiming around 5,700 lives, according to the World Health Organisation.

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Source: Al Jazeera and agencies