New York, July 19 (IANS) Scientists have developed a new antibody-based test that can help differentiate Zika virus infections from infections caused by similar viruses such as dengue and West Nile.
Zika is a mosquito-borne disease and is linked to severe congenital birth defects.
The new antibody-based test, developed by researchers at the University of California – Berkeley and biotechnology company Humabs BioMed, has very high sensitivity (91.8 per cent) and specificity (95.9 per cent) for identifying Zika virus infections.
“The whole world has been in urgent need of a serological method to distinguish dengue virus from Zika virus infections, and this (is) the first to have such high sensitivity and specificity in dengue-endemic regions,” said Eva Harris, Professor at UC-B.
To develop the test, Humabs generated a new human antibody to the Zika virus.
The researchers then implemented the test on samples from Zika patients, with or without prior exposure to dengue virus, and samples from dengue patients infected either once or more than once with different types of the dengue virus.
The data, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, showed that the test was highly sensitive, specific and robust.
“These results support that the antibody-based assay that we have developed is highly effective in detecting both recent and past Zika virus infections and in discriminating Zika from other flavivirus infections,” said Davide Corti, senior Vice President and Chief Scientific Officer from Humabs BioMed.
“This novel test has the potential to become an effective, simple and low-cost solution for Zika surveillance programs, prevalence studies and clinical intervention trials in flavivirus-endemic areas,” Corti added.