New Tool to Diagnose Zika
Zika grabbed the world’s attention in late 2015, when scientists in Brazil began to suspect a connection between the virus and fetal microcephaly — a syndrome in which babies are born with small heads and neurological deficits — and also Zika’s link to Guillain-Barré, a neurological syndrome that can cause weakness and temporary paralysis. On June 7, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines, suggesting that women in Zika-infested areas delay pregnancy, citing mounting evidence that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than previously assumed. As of June 8, 2016, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported 1,996 cases of Zika in the United States and US territories, 695 of which were travel-related.
One of the most vexing challenges of Zika is that it is so difficult to diagnose. Many symptoms of the virus — like fever, headache, fatigue, and malaise — overlap with dengue fever and chikungunya, and an estimated 80 percent of people infected with Zika show no symptoms at all.
Now, a team of researchers at seven universities, including BU, has developed a prototype for a simple, inexpensive Zika test using RNA sensors embedded in tiny discs of paper, which turn from yellow to purple in the presence of the virus.
- Health Care