A low-cost paper-based test can rapidly detect low levels of Zika virus in human blood samples.
James Collins at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge and his colleagues previously designed a paper-based test for Ebola virus. Specially programmed RNA 'sensors' embedded in paper strips bind to viral RNA sequences, triggering a chemical reaction that changes the colour of the paper. The researchers adapted this for the Zika virus, and added a step that boosts the amount of viral RNA, increasing the test's sensitivity. They detected Zika virus in human serum spiked to mimic samples from infected patients. The test also distinguished Zika from the related dengue virus, and can differentiate between two similar strains of Zika.
It takes about 5 days to design the RNA sensors and produce the paper strips, and roughly 3 hours to run the test, making the system potentially useful in future disease outbreaks, the authors say.
Cell http://doi.org/bhjf (2016)