Zika virus detection with low-cost rapid method developed by experts, new mouse model can help enhance research

By: Mohan Garikiparithi | General Health | Monday, May 09, 2016 - 01:00 PM

Zika virus detection with low-cost rapid methodZika virus can be detected with low-cost rapid method developed by experts while a new mouse model can help enhance research. Researchers from the University of Toronto, Harvard, Cornell, MIT, and other institutions have developed an easy-to-use, paper-based tool that helps detect Zika virus. The tool is a freeze-dried piece of paper about the size of a stamp.

Developer of the tool Keith Pardee said, “We hope that, through this work, we have created the template for a tool that can make a positive impact on public health across the globe. The diagnostic platform developed by our team has provided a high-performing, low-cost tool that can work in remote locations. We have developed a workflow that combines molecular tools to provide diagnostics that can be read out on a piece of paper no larger than a postage stamp.”

Proper testing of Zika virus currently involves nucleic acid-based testing, which is only effective with the use of labs, trained professionals, and expensive equipment. Unfortunately, this is not available in all regions, especially rural, poorer ones. The new tool costs less than a dollar, requires minimal training, and is easy to use.

The strip of paper requires either a saliva, urine, or blood drop, which is applied to sensors on the paper and triggers a response within an hour. If the sample contains RNA of Zika, the paper will turn purple.

Pardee said, “Our synthetic biology pipeline for rapid sensor design and prototyping has tremendous potential for application for the Zika virus and other public health threats, enabling us to rapidly develop new diagnostics when and where they are needed most.”

Pardee suggests that the use of such an easy tool can help curb outbreaks and reduce the spread of disease.

Zika virus research enhanced by new model, can aid in the development of an antiviral vaccine

Researchers have developed the first mouse model in order to study Zika virus. Assistant scientist and lead author Matthew Aliota said, “The tools have not been available to people who want to be able to test vaccines and antivirals against Zika virus. The caveat is that it’s a mouse model, but it does allow us to test vaccines, and the pathology caused by the virus in the mouse brain could be used to understand the pathology in the brains of humans, especially fetuses.”

The current Zika virus outbreak began in Brazil and is quickly moving through the Americas and even worldwide. The CDC has since confirmed that Zika virus is responsible for birth defects in babies, and some neurological defects have been seen in adults as well. Furthermore, the virus has been found to spread through sexual contact, too.

Mouse models allow researchers to study Zika virus on a larger scale and perform experiments that are not possible on humans. Aliota added, “Similar models have been revealed in the last two weeks, but there are also differences between those and ours.”

The researchers noted that Zika virus in mice is fatal at all levels, which is not seen in humans. The mice were then euthanized and the researchers studied their organs. Although the virus had spread throughout the entire body, pathology was only seen in the brain and skeletal muscle.

Coauthor Emma Walker added, “It’s pretty easy for people to see on the news that there’s this illness affecting lots of people and wonder why no one has come up with a vaccine yet, but for Zika, which hasn’t really been researched before, there’s a lot of pressure just to find out more basic things — like how the virus works — before you can try to tackle ‘curing’ the illness.”

The researchers’ goal is to ultimately develop a vaccine or treatment options in order to combat Zika virus.

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