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Scientists at the Washington University in St. Louis, have developed a nanotechnology-based test that can quickly detect the presence of the Zika virus in the blood.
Currently, testing for Zika requires that a blood sample be refrigerated and shipped to a medical centre or laboratory, delaying diagnosis and possible treatment.
But with this new technology, the materials required for the test do not require refrigeration and may be applicable in testing for other emerging infectious diseases as well.
The research was recently published in the journal Advanced Biosystems.
During the study the researchers tested blood samples taken from four people who had been infected with Zika virus and compared it to blood from five people known not to have the virus. Blood from Zika-infected patients tested positive, but blood from Zika-negative controls did not.
How This New Technology Works?
This new test relies on a protein made by Zika virus that causes an immune response in infected individuals. The protein is attached to tiny gold nanorods mounted on a piece of paper.
The paper is then completely covered with tiny, protective nanocrystals. The nanocrystals allow the diagnostic nanorods to be shipped and stored without refrigeration prior to use.
To use the test, a technician rinses the paper with slightly acidic water, removing the protective crystals and exposing the protein mounted on the nanorods. Then, a drop of the patient's blood is applied.
If the patient has come into contact with the virus, the blood will contain immunoglobulins that react with the protein.