Researchers Develop New Rapid Diagnostic Test for Zika Virus

Researchers in Houston, Texas, have developed a hospital-based diagnostic test for Zika virus that will cut down the time to diagnosis. The test uses a sample of blood, urine, or spinal fluid (or amniotic fluid for pregnant woman) and can provide a response in as quickly as a day. The current standard methods for diagnosis take 10 days to two weeks and involve physicians shipping blood samples to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“Until now it’s been a complicated, fairly lengthy process to get a diagnosis,” said James Musser, MD, PhD, director pathology and genomic medicine at the Houston Methodist Hospital, who worked on developing the diagnostic test.

The test has been assessed internally for accuracy and sensitivity, though no third-party reviews have been conducted yet. One potential drawback of the test is that it requires expensive and specialized treatment that is typically confined to major hospital centers.

Researchers are working on other more portable and inexpensive diagnostic tools that can be used in more rural areas of Latin America to track the virus.

A number of Zika cases have already been confirmed in the United States, and public health officials estimate that infected mosquitoes could reach the United States by summer.

Source: The Washington Post, “Texas hospitals announce first quick test for Zika that could help identify when the virus reaches U.S,” February 24, 2016.