The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response (ASPR) awarded Chembio Diagnostic Systems, Inc., a $5.9 million contract on Wednesday for the development of a Zika virus test for use in doctors’ offices.
Chembio is developing the lateral-flow serological test to identify antibodies that the human immune system produces in response to the Zika virus. The test is similar to a home pregnancy test, but uses a single drop of blood instead of a urine sample.
“Developing safe and effective diagnostic tests, vaccines and blood screens are essential in curbing the spread of the Zika virus,” Dr. Richard Hatchett, acting director of BARDA, said. “We are working to move medical products through the development pipeline to reach the market as quickly as possible so that doctors and other healthcare providers have the information they need to guide clinical management.”
This is the second point-of-care test ASPR has funded to detect Zika virus infections.
The most common symptoms of Zika infection are fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis. In pregnant women, the virus can lead to malformations of the fetus. Only a fraction of those infected with Zika show any symptoms, making the virus difficult to detect.
The contract was awarded through ASPR’s Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA). The contract has an extension option for up to a total of three years and $13.2 million. HHS has repurposed $374 million for domestic Zika response and preparedness activities.