Researchers at the Texas Biomedical Research Institute have detected a new way to diagnose Zika virus. A publication dated Jan. 28, 2019 describes this test.
The researchers are testing blood, semen or urine with this system.Three universities developed this system: the University of California at Santa Cruz, Brigham Young University, and the University of California at Berkeley. Most noteworthy, this test determines in which stage of the Zika virus infection the patient is.
- Certainly, if there are antibodies against Zika virus present, the patient is not at risk to get a new infection. Antibodies against Zika virus indicate that the patient had exposure to the virus in the past, but survived by producing antibodies.
- When the patient is in the RNA replication phase, it means the patient has a recent infection of Zika virus.
- In case the patient has started to produce viral particles, it indicates that the patient entered the chronic phase of Zika virus infection.
History of Zika virus
The Zika virus was first detected in Uganda in 1947. But it suddenly reappeared in 2014 when a new epidemic led to birth defects, particularly microcephaly. Research regarding the present Zika virus test started 2 years ago.
Optofluidics and microfluidics
Optofluidics combines two technologies. Microfluidics takes small biological samples for medical and chemical tests. Integrated optics uses lasers and other optical elements on a chip. One of the researchers described the Zika virus test as “a lab on a chip”. This technology can detect molecules without needing further amplification or other tests. Professor Holger Schmidt, Ph.D., of UC Santa Cruz said they are now in the process to develop a similar test for the detection of Ebola virus.
We are seeing a new development for diagnosing Zika virus infection. This will help in Africa to investigate the course of the epidemic. It also helps to investigate tourists who return from endemic areas. What is particularly useful about this new test is the fact that early infection can be separated from chronic infection. It is also possible to identify recovered cases of Zika virus infection.