Researchers in US develop saliva-based test for Zika virus

26 February 2018 (Last Updated February 26th, 2018 12:24)

Researchers at New York University College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) and Rheonix in the US are developing a new test that uses saliva to detect nucleic acids and antibodies of the Zika Virus.

Researchers in US develop saliva-based test for Zika virus
Zika can persist longer in saliva than in blood. Credit: New York University.

Researchers at New York University College of Dentistry (NYU Dentistry) and Rheonix in the US are developing a new test that uses saliva to detect nucleic acids and antibodies of the Zika Virus.

Based on an existing test model created by the firms for fast detection of HIV, the Zika test is said to identify the viral diagnostic markers much quicker than existing tests.

A blood sample processed with real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) is commonly used to test for the Zika virus, followed by a separate step for detecting antibodies.

As the virus in the blood sample disappears in seven to 14 days but stays longer in saliva, researchers believe that the new test could be a better, non-invasive and cost-effective alternative to test for both the virus and antibodies.

The researchers also adopted isothermal amplification that is said to detect virus’ nucleic acids in just 20 minutes and antibodies within an hour by using Zika-specific antigens.

NYU Dentistry basic science professor Daniel Malamud said: “The sooner you can identify a pathogen, the sooner steps can be taken to treat and isolate people.

“During an epidemic, you could test people before they get on a plane.

“The future of going through security at the airport may not be taking off your shoes, but instead spitting into a tube.”

“The amount of virus could provide insights into disease severity and immune responses.”

The researchers used purified Zika RNA and Zika-infected saliva to validate the capability of the test to detect the virus and later used it with the Rheonix CARD cartridge and workstation to measure viral load in saliva.

According to the team, the amount of virus could provide insights into disease severity and immune responses.

They also identified Zika-specific antigens to avoid confusion with other viruses such as Dengue and Chikungunya.

Both the new diagnostic assays can be combined in the Rheonix CARD cartridge for automatic and simultaneous use.