Researchers at MIT and other universities have developed a cheap, fast test to diagnose the Zika virus, which is spread by infected mosquitoes and is particularly dangerous to pregnant women. The test involves sensors embedded in paper that can detect a particular genetic sequence found in Zika. If the sequence is present in a person’s blood, urine, or saliva, the paper changes color within hours.
“We have a system that could be widely distributed and used in the field with low cost and very few resources,” said lead researcher James Collins, the Termeer Professor of Medical Engineering and Science in MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering and Institute for Medical Engineering and Science (IMES), in a story by MIT News. Other MIT researchers involved include Lee Gehrke, the Hermann L.F. von Helmholtz Professor in IMES.
A Zika virus outbreak began in Brazil in 2015; most people have mild or few symptoms, so they may not realize they’ve been infected. But the virus can cause serious birth defects.
The new test could soon be used in the field. “More work and additional testing would be needed to ensure safety and efficacy before actual deployment,” said Collins. “We’re not far off.”
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