Scientists have created a new paper test that could change the fight against the Zika virus.
Scientists may have just performed a minor miracle in the battle against the dreaded Zika virus — or, perhaps, even a major one.
Researchers at MIT have created a new paper-based test that could not only detect a Zika infection in just a few hours, but would also be very inexpensive, according to an MIT statement.
The test would be capable of distinguishing Zika from the dengue virus. It could also be stored at room temperature and would cost next to nothing, allowing it to be used widely in even the poorest of countries.
The Zika outbreak began in April 2015 in Brazil. Since then, it has spread further north, threatening to cause problems in the United States. The virus doesn’t have many acute symptoms in the person who is infected, but it is a big problem for pregnant women as it can result in a miscarriage.
Today patients must be diagnosed by examining the bloodstream to see if there are antibodies against Zika, or by looking at a blood sample for pieces of the genome of the virus. Beyond being difficult tests that must be performed in a clincial setting, the tests take days or even weeks to produce results, and they aren’t always accurate.
“Collins and his colleagues developed sensors, embedded in the paper discs, that can detect 24 different RNA sequences found in the Zika viral genome, which, like that of many viruses, is composed of RNA instead of DNA. When the target RNA sequence is present, it initiates a series of interactions that turns the paper from yellow to purple,” the statement reads. “This color change can be seen with the naked eye, but the researchers also developed an electronic reader that makes it easier to quantify the change, especially in cases where the sensor is detecting more than one RNA sequence.”