A new paper-based test for Zika virus

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A new paper-based test for Zika virus
Image: Wyss Institute at Harvard University

MIT researchers have just developed a new paper-based test for Zika virus. It demonstrates Zika virus infection within few hours. This test differentiates Zika virus from dengue virus. It is a paper-based test that contains black cartridge for detecting. The research is held up by scientists Harvard’s Wyss Institute.

James Collins, lead researcher, and professor at MIT in the US said that they have a system that could be delivered and used in the sector with cheap cost and very few resources.
The Zika virus was first found in April 1947 from Rhesus Macaque monkey at Zika forest, Uganda.

Most of the infected people develop no symptoms. But when the symptoms have been recognizing, it found that symptoms are similar to those of Dengue and Chikungunya.
Currently, patients are diagnosed by medicine Zikavac. And tested from test known as Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) by testing whether the patients have antitoxin present inside their bloodstream. This test normally takes some days or weeks for the result and still can’t give result accurately.

How does paper-based test for Zika virus work?

The new paper-based device is based on chip based technology developed by the researcher which is previously used to detect the Ebola virus. Researchers implanted artificial gene network on small discs on paper. These gene networks are programmed to identify particular genetic sequence, which causes the paper to change color.

The researcher decided to apply this technique to cure Zika, after learning about Zika outbreak.

Collins said that they made this device within very short span of time i.e., within few weeks. It is relatively rapid, inexpensive Zika diagnostic platform.

How was this made?

Scientists developed sensors and equipped with the paper discs. It detects 24 different types of RNA sequences found in Zika viral genome, which is like that of any viruses composed of RNA instead of DNA. When the targeted RNA sequence is recognized, it starts a series of communication that turns the paper from yellow color to purple color. The changing color can be seen with naked eye. The researcher also demonstrated an electronic reader which makes it easier to determine the change, especially when the sensor detects more than one RNA sequence.

Proteins, nucleic acids, and ribosomes all these basic components are important for this process. This can be drawn out outside living cells and drain over paper. These paper discs can be stored at room temperature. All of these components function just they would inside a living cell after once it rehydrate.

Researchers also include Nucleic Acid Sequence-based Amplification (NASBA) for increasing the quantity of viral RNA in blood sample before exposing it to the sensor. This amplification steps takes one to two hours, increases the test’s sensitivity 1 million fold.

Julius Lucks, an assistant professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering at Cornell University said, “This demonstration of rapidly customizable molecular sensor represents a huge for the field the synthetic biology. What really exciting here is you can leverage all this expertise that synthetic biologists are gaining in construction genetic networks and use it important and can potentially transform how we do diagnostics.”

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