Washington University in St. Louis researchers have developed a test that uses nanotechnology to quickly detect the presence of the Zika virus in blood. Results are ready in minutes and test materials do not require refrigeration. Currently, testing for Zika requires that a blood sample be refrigerated and shipped to a medical center or laboratory, delaying diagnosis and possible treatment. The proof-of-concept technology has yet to be produced for use in medical situations, but its potential is promising.
Another reason such a test is needed, say the researchers, is that many people infected with Zika don’t know it.
“Zika infection is often either asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic,” said Evan D. Kharasch, MD, PhD, one of the study’s three senior investigators. “The most effective way to diagnose the disease is not to wait for people to develop symptoms but to do population screening.”
That strategy requires inexpensive, easy-to-use and easy-to-transport tests.
“If an assay requires electricity and refrigeration, it defeats the purpose of developing something to use in a resource-limited setting, especially in tropical areas of the world,” said Srikanth Singamaneni, an associate professor of mechanical engineering & materials science. “We wanted to make the test immune from variations in temperature and humidity.”
“With this test, results will be clear before the patient leaves the clinic, allowing immediate counseling and access to treatment,” says senior investigator Jeremiah J. Morrissey, research professor of anesthesiology.
Similar strategies could be used in the fight against other infectious diseases emerging around the world.