Development and deployment of low-cost, paper-based Zika diagnostics
The outbreak of the Zika virus highlights the need for low-cost diagnostics that can be rapidly developed, tested and deployed for use in regions vulnerable to this pandemic threat. Diagnostic tests which are currently available are either costly, unavailable in remote locations where surveillance of Zika transmission is most needed, or cannot differentiate the Zika virus from other pathogens like the dengue or chikungunya viruses.
This project is implemented in collaboration with the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, which is the national institute of infectious disease in Brazil; the National Institute for Research in Public Health in Ecuador; and the Universidad El Bosque in Colombia. It will support Canadian and Latin American researchers to develop and deploy a low-cost, paper-based diagnostic test to detect Zika virus infections in Latin America. This diagnostic test is powered by next-generation advances in synthetic biology and genetic sequencing. It has already been validated in laboratory animal models.
This project will refine, expand upon, and field-validate this test in real-world clinical settings in Latin America. A multi-disciplinary research team will improve the ability of this test to detect the Zika virus, distinguish between different strains of the virus, and differentiate between the Zika virus and dengue, chikungunya and related viral infections. This project will also refine the test to make it faster, easier and cheaper to use in the field. Finally, the project will work with national laboratories in Latin America to easily and quickly collect patient samples and test for the virus at the point of care without the need for a storage and distribution cold-chain system. Through these efforts, this research stands to improve diagnostic and surveillance capacity in Latin America against the Zika virus, slow the spread of the Zika virus outbreak, and ultimately improve human health.