MIT researchers have led a team in developing a paper-based test that can diagnose the Zika virus in just a few hours.
The new test can be stored at room temperature and is designed to distinguish Zika from similar dengue virus. The sample can also be easily evaluated with a simple electronic reader, which gives it the potential to be practical for widespread use.
The Zika outbreak began in Brazil in April 2015 and has been associated with the microcephaly birth defect. Many who were infected by the virus did not show symptoms, but when symptoms do show up they are very similar to that of the dengue and chikungunya viruses.
Patients are currently diagnosed by being tested to see whether they have antibodies in their bloodstream that can resist Zika and by searching for pieces of the viral genome in blood samples using a test called polymerase chain reaction, or a PCR test. The problem with these tests is that they usually take days or weeks to provide results, with the antibody test being unable to differentiate between Zika and dengue.