New diagnostic for Zika on the horizon?

Original Article:

One of the challenging parts of the recent Zika epidemic has been the lack of low cost, reliable testing for the virus. Zika presents with flu-like symptoms, and is hard to differentiate from other illnesses. Luckily, researchers at Harvard have claimed that they created a low-cost paper diagnostic for Zika.

The research group created a 3 step workflow, which includes Zika detection, strain identification, and a gene editing tool to find specific markers. An amplified RNA sample is applied to a paper test strip, which turns a different color in 30 minutes to an hour baed on the result. It is based on synthetic biomolecular sensor technology embedded into paper, which this lab has been working on.

This type of research bodes well for low cost diagnostic testing, which is desperately needed, especially in developing countries. A huge part of epidemic control is being able to identify cases of the disease, which has been particularly troublesome with Zika. Especially as mosquitos spread, and Zika enters new areas (30 states in the US have the mosquito vector that carries Zika!), diagnostics that can be widely used are key. Before we go ahead and use this test, the specificity and sensitivity of the test need to be better understood and reported upon. But if those can be established for this test, we should definitely encourage its wide usage.


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