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New Zika Test Produces Results In Under An Hour

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
Ozlem Yaren
The Florida Channel
A new test for the Zika Virus would produce results in 30-45 minutes.

Florida scientists have developed a new test for Zika that would produce results in less than an hour.

And the test can detect the Zika virus in the blood of humans or mosquitoes.

That would be a big improvement over the current test, which can take day or weeks.

Last summer, the backlog of Zika tests was so bad that even pregnant women had to wait weeks for their results.

Mosquitoes captured in the field had to be taken to a lab before they could be tested for the virus.

And quicker tests were expensive.

The new test costs less than $5 and can produce results in the field or in a doctor’s office in 30-45 minutes.

Ozlem Yaren, a researcher at the Foundation for Applied Molecular Evolution, helped developed the test and authored a recent study about it. She says being able to quickly detect the virus will help prevent its spread.

"Since there is no vaccination and nothing can be done to cure it, all we can do is detect as early as possible," Yaren said.

The test can be done in a test tube with a couple drops of blood or urine and a heating source, Yaren said.

“And then an observation box uses an LED light,” Yaren said. “You put the tubes in after heating them up, switch it on and read the florescence. So it’s just a visual readout. It gives you an answer, yes or no.” 

The tests is awaiting approval from the FDA, which could take up to a year.

The test only detects the active virus and not antibodies, which can linger in the body after the infection is gone.  It can also be used to test for Chikungunya and Dengue, viruses also spread by mosquitoes. 

So far this year, 71 people in Florida have tested positive for Zika, including 48 pregnant women. Most of the cases are travel-related.

Zika can be spread through mosquitoes or unprotected sex. Most people who are infected show no signs of the virus, but it can cause microcephaly, a birth defect which leads to abnormally small heads in babies.    

Julio Ochoa is editor of Health News Florida.