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Office of Neuroscience Research > WUSTL Neuroscience News > Test uses nanotechnology to quickly diagnose Zika virus

Test uses nanotechnology to quickly diagnose Zika virus



From the WashU Newsroom...

Washington University in St. Louis researchers have developed a test that quickly detects the presence of Zika virus in blood.

Currently, testing for Zika requires that a blood sample be refrigerated and shipped to a medical center or laboratory, delaying diagnosis and possible treatment. Although the new proof-of-concept technology has yet to be produced for use in medical situations, the test’s results can be determined in minutes. Further, the materials required for the test do not require refrigeration and may be applicable in testing for other emerging infectious diseases.

Findings from the small study — from Washington University School of Medicine and the School of Engineering & Applied Science — is available online in the journal Advanced Biosystems.

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. The assay produced no false-positive results.

Among the reasons such a test is needed, according to the researchers, is that many people infected with Zika don’t know they’re infected. Although symptoms include fever, joint pain, muscle pain and rash, many people don’t feel ill after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Testing is particularly important for pregnant women because Zika infection can cause congenital Zika syndrome, which contributes to several neurologic problems in the fetus or newborn infant.

“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. Kharasch, the Russell D. and Mary B. Shelden Professor of Anesthesiology, collaborated with Srikanth Singamaneni, an associate professor of mechanical engineering & materials science, and Jeremiah J. Morrissey, a research professor of anesthesiology, to create the test, which uses gold nanorods mounted on paper to detect Zika infection within a few minutes.

“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 Singamaneni. “We wanted to make the test immune from variations in temperature and humidity.”

For the complete story, visit The Source.