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A ’dipstick’ test for Zika, dengue viruses
October 8, 2017, 5:16 pm

Public health response to dangerous Zika and dengue viruses could be revolutionized by a quick, cheap and simple test that involves nothing more complicated than dipping a test-strip in a sample of blood.

The test accurately diagnoses Zika and dengue, and also can differentiate between the two mosquito-borne viruses, which is something that even commercially available tests now find difficult to do accurately.

Scientists at the Institute for Medical Engineering and Science, at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in the US, developed the test strip, which contains antibodies that react to the presence of Zika or dengue virus, and gold nanoparticles that respond to the antibody reaction.

To use the new test, which resembles a pregnancy test strip, a medical professional would need to dip the strip into a tube of either blood serum or whole blood from the patient. If the antibodies on the strip recognize the viral proteins of zika or dengue, the gold nanoparticles respond by appearing as a dot or line on the strip. The test can not only differentiate Zika from dengue, it can also distinguish among four different strains of dengue.

Researchers checked the accuracy of the test by testing blood serum samples taken from people in regions where Zika has hit hardest, including Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, India, Mexico and Panama. The test proved to be 80 to 90 percent accurate in detecting Zika and other related viruses. The team said it would take about a year to get the test out on the market and would be available for less than a dollar a strip.

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