International Scientists Mobilize Against the Zika Virus
Jan. 31, 2016 (EIRNS)—Although development of a vaccine to combat the Zika virus will take some time, breakthroughs are being made in the area of diagnostics, allowing the presence of the virus to be quickly identified.
In Brazil, the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz) and the Brazilian Health Ministry announced Jan. 18 that they had developed a diagnostic kit that can simultaneously identify the genetic material in the Zika, chikunguna and dengue viruses, all of which are transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. The kit was the joint effort of the Molecular Biology Institute of Parana (IBMP) and four divisions of Fiocruz. Production of the new NAT Kits will begin immediately, and the Health Ministry said it will make 500,000 of them available to Fiocruz before the end of the year, but no specific date is given. Health Minister Marcelo Castro stressed the importance of this breakthrough, Jornal do Brasil reported Jan. 16, emphasizing that the use of Brazilian, rather than imported technology, will greatly lower the cost of producing the kits.
Citing Deutsche Welle, RT reports today that German researchers at the biotechnology company Genekam have also developed a diagnostic test that can accurately detect the Zika virus in humans. According to the German daily, the new technology can not only reveal the presence of Zika pathogens in a blood sample, but also indicate how much exists in a patient’s blood. Thus, it will be possible to definitely determine if a person is a carrier of the Zika virus. The first kits containing the new tests have already been sent to Brazil.
Deutsche Welle also reported that a six-man research team from Senegal’s Pasteur Institute in Dakar has landed in Brazil, hoping to adapt their mobile Ebola diagnostic kit for Zika, to assist Brazilian authorities in more rapidly identifying Zika cases through door to door inspections. Team director, Dr. Amadou Alpha Sall, said his Ebola kit can identify the presence of the virus within 15 minutes.