Health and Medicine Technology

Simple, Affordable, Paper-Based Diagnostic Platform to Detect Zika Virus

Zika Test

A University of Toronto assistant Professor of Pharmacy who goes by the name of Keith Pardee, along with his team, developed an affordable, simplistic way to detect the Zika virus much quicker than ever before. With the help of an international team of scientists, this platform created of paper does not require a single power cell and can hold synthetic gene networks in and outside of a lab setting.

Paper-based Zika Test
A black cassette containing a paper-based diagnostic test for detecting the Zika virus. Spots that turn purple indicate samples infected with Zika, while yellow spots mark samples that are free of the virus.
(Image Credits: Wyss Institute at Harvard University)

Zika virus is a mosquito-borne virus that was first observed in 1947 in Uganda’s rhesus monkeys via monitoring network of sylvatic yellow fever. First human cases involving Zika were detected in 1952 in Uganda and the United Republic of Tanzania. Majority of people that get infected with Zika virus won’t even notice they have the disease because they won’t have symptoms, but typical symptoms of Zika are fever, joint pain, rash, conjunctivitis, muscle pain and headache.

Team collaboration between Wyss, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Boston University, Arizona State University, Cornell University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Broad Institute, and the University of Toronto, used toehold sensors and isothermal RNA amplification to build diagnostic sensors that were placed on a stamp-sized piece of paper. The paper was freeze-dried prior to application. The sensors which were programmed into the paper offered results at a very quick pace with much sensitivity. As of yet, the only reliable tests available have been through nucleic acid-based testing, which requires a complete lab and very specific equipment that isn’t cheap. There are many places in the world that simply cannot afford or sustain this type of testing, leaving many undiagnosed and without treatment they require.

What is so great about this new form of testing is that it is extremely simple and can be used by individuals who may not have a lot of training. All it takes is a small sample of saliva, urine or blood which is applied to the sensors that have been placed on paper samples. A diagnostic is generally formulated within an hour, which will display the color purple if the samples has the RNA known to be present within the Zika virus. At a cost of less than a dollar per testing, this new and portable technology brings hope to sufferers who have previously been unable to locate a treatment facility.

Lead author of the study, Dr. Keith Pardee says this will help individuals in remote locations receive the treatment they so desperately need. He is hopeful that these new studies will make a positive impact on public health across the globe. The rapid sensor will not only help with the diagnosis of the Zika virus but can be applied to many other health threats, leading to quicker development of diagnostics on a wide scale.

The complete study can be found in Cell journal and shows insight into an increase need for medical care, which begins with fast diagnosis. The goal is to stay ahead of virus outbreaks, limiting the spread and decreasing the amount of pressure already placed on healthcare systems that do not always have the amount of support needed to care for patients efficiently.

  • Matthew Vernon Bills

    Very, cool… although the article is a little misleading. Unless I misunderstood what said in the 2nd video you would still need, in the very least a PCR machine to amplify the RNA in from the virus, and this would require specific RNA primers… So not a test that any old Joe could do at home, but practically any bio-lab could easily be equipped to perform it.