WHO expresses interest in new Zika test

Scientists in Singapore have developed a kit that can test for the Dengue, Chikungunya and Zika viruses all at the same time in just two hours.

The three mosquito-borne viruses cause similar symptoms such as rashes and joint pain. Symptoms for the Zika virus are generally mild and go away within a week, causing the disease to be misdiagnosed.

The kit is ready for use and only costs a few dollars to produce. Dr Masafumi Inoue, a senior research scientist at the Agency for Science, Technology & Research’s Experimental Therapeutics Centre confirmed that the World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed interest.

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Dr Masafumi Inoue is currently compiling clinical data for the health authority before sending the kit over for testing. If the testing is successful, the WHO may use the kit to test for the viruses.

As it is extremely important to quickly distinguish between the three major mosquito-borne viruses, the kit could prove incredibly useful in ensuring patients receive the required treatment and care without delay.

All that is required from the patient is a blood or urine sample. The genetic material of the virus is then extracted to find out what the virus is. The detection process takes two hours, reducing the time by threefold if each of the viruses were to be tested for individually.

The idea to develop the kit came about six months ago when Brazil had been hit badly by a large number of Zika cases.

OTCs in Action Episode 56: Treating Zika but possibly so much more

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This week, OTCs are in Action against the symptoms of the Zika virus, a rapidly spreading disease for which there are no vaccines or cures. The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention recommend treatment with acetaminophen (paracetamol) but not aspirin or NSAIDs until dengue can be ruled out. However, there is perhaps more that OTCs can do in addition to ameliorating the minor symptoms that affect one in five people with the virus.

The real threat of Zika is its association with a steep increase in the birth of babies with abnormally small heads and the autoimmune neurological syndrome, Guillain-Barré. As a result, health authorities in Brazil, Colombia and El Salvador have warned women to not get pregnant. The problem is, in many South American countries, there are significant cultural and economic barriers to obtaining contraception.

Amma Saloranta, communications director for Girls’ Globe, blogged for The Huffington Post: “Releasing reliable and factual information about the Zika virus is absolutely crucial for pregnant women to be able to take necessary precautions to minimise their risk of getting infected, but providing that information is only a tiny part of the efforts that need to be undertaken to protect women and their babies from the disease. Without the tools — sexual education, family planning services and contraceptives — telling women to “delay pregnancy” is, in all honesty, total hypocrisy. It’s like telling a person standing in the rain to “not get wet” and not give them an umbrella — despite the fact that you’re holding the umbrella in your hand.”

Perhaps OTCs can be in action to help open the umbrella of safe & effective OTC contraceptive options in South America.