An Innovative Suitcase Lab Used to Fight Ebola Could Help Us Untangle the Zika Epidemic

Friday, February 5, 2016

The World Health Organization has declared Zika a global health emergency, because it believes the risks are high enough for a global response. And yet, we understand little about the virus and its effects on people. Zika’s links to neurological conditions, such as microcephaly—abnormal brain development in newborns—remain unproven.

 A team of Brazilian and African scientists (link in Portuguese) believe rapid and thorough testing for Zika will be key to solving that mystery. Given Brazil’s vast size and limited infrastructure, though, they’re having to deploy an inventive diagnostic tool to achieve that: A suitcase-sized laboratory.
Since the beginning of the year, researchers from the Institute of Biomedical Sciences of São Paulo University and the Pasteur Institute of Dakar, Senegal have been working to adapt mobile-laboratory technology, which was used in Africa to detect Ebola, to analyze Brazil’s Zika epidemic. The whole thing weighs less than 20 kgs (44 pounds) and is operated with a laptop. The components used to test samples, which would have to be kept frozen in a traditional lab setting, are all in powder form, not unlike a boxed cake mix that only requires water.

Source: Quartz (link opens in a new window)

Health Care
infectious diseases