Scientists may have a new means of detecting and helping tailor therapies to meet the Zika virus’s onslaught.
The technology in question utilizes optofluidic chips — a combination of small biological samples used for detection purposes (microfluidics) and integrated optics, which use lasers and other various optical elements on a chip — to screen bodily fluids for traces of Zika, as well as its stage of progression. The latter is potentially critical, as many treatments can only halt the virus in its early stages.
Developed by researchers at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Brigham Young University and the University of California at Berkeley, the test is now being worked on by scientists from Texas Biomedical Research Institute and others. It is also being developed for use with the Ebola virus.
“What this technology will do is tell us, first of all, if you’ve already been infected,” Jean Patterson, a professor at Texas Biomed and one of the researchers involved, said. “If you have antibodies, you wouldn’t be at risk for a new infection. It will also tell us where you are in your infection.”
The research on this technology began two years ago, with a partnership between Texas Biomed, UC Santa Cruz and the Southwest National Primate Research Center. Texas Biomed brought viral knowledge, while UC Santa Cruz undertook testing. Southwest National provided marmosets to meet the needs of blood, urine and semen samples for testing.