Researchers from Harvard University have developed a way to quickly diagnose Zika virus using only paper. This low cost and rapid paper-based prototype could disclose the presence of the disease within hours instead of days or weeks by screening blood, urine, or saliva samples from particular strains of the virus.
“The growing global health crisis caused by the Zika virus propelled us to leverage novel technologies we have developed in the lab and use them to create a workflow that could diagnose a patient with Zika, in the field, within two to three hours,” said James Collins, who led the researchers team of Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University.
The test is pretty simple, just a piece of paper attached with a synthetic biomolecular sensor made of protein and genes. They change color upon detecting their target, as for this case it’s Zika, adding the difference between Zika and other viruses.
“We have tested our diagnostic systems against closely related strains of the Dengue virus and found that within the first two steps, our system can readily distinguish Zika from Dengue,” said Alexander Green, the co-first author on the study. He is also the assistant professor in the Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics at ASU’s Biodesign Institute and School of Molecular Sciences.
Just like a home pregnancy test, the result can be read with the naked eye. Also, the researchers have developed an electronic reader that to help get faster results than eyeballing.
If Zika is detected, the scientists see this method as a platform. They have already discovered a way to use the gene editing technology named CRISPR-Cas9 to recognize the strain of the virus. This also involves the same paper testing method that is able to change colors upon the presence of certain genes.