ASU researchers unveil $1 Zika test

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The test is highly accurate, and can differentiate Zika from its close cousin, dengue. (Source: ASU Biodesign Institute) The test is highly accurate, and can differentiate Zika from its close cousin, dengue. (Source: ASU Biodesign Institute)
The test paper looks like a small page of dot candy. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The test paper looks like a small page of dot candy. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
The research team was assembled in January and included scientists from MIT, Harvard and other universities. They developed the prototype in just six weeks. (Source: KPHO/KTVK) The research team was assembled in January and included scientists from MIT, Harvard and other universities. They developed the prototype in just six weeks. (Source: KPHO/KTVK)
MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

A team of scientists that included researchers at Arizona State University unveiled a new tool in the fight against the Zika virus Friday, a paper-based test that costs as little as $1 per application.

It looks like a small page of dot candy, but the new test offers advantages to current methods that are no novelty, according to a study published Friday in the journal Cell.

Because the test is made out of paper, it can be shipped to remote areas of the world without the need of refrigeration, said study co-author Dr. Alexander Green of the ASU Biodesign Institute.

It’s also highly accurate, and can differentiate Zika from its close cousin, dengue – something other testing methods can’t do. And it’s relatively easy to use, even in remote clinics with limited materials or supplies.

Accurate testing is critical, he said, because Zika is stealthy. If symptoms appear, they’re usually mild signs like fever and joint pain, but the consequences are dire. The virus can cause serious brain abnormalities in babies born to an infected mother, and recent evidence suggests it can be transmitted through sexual intercourse.

Green said the test is an important tool in efforts to contain the virus.

"If we have more information about who’s infected, where the particular areas of mosquitoes that have it are, we can take better action to both control the mosquito population and give people at risk the ability to control and manage their exposure," he said.

VIMEO: Alexander Green on the Zike virus

The test is performed by mixing a droplet of blood with a reaction agent, and then adding that mixture to the paper. Results come back in about two hours. Green said researchers are planning to expand the test to also evaluate urine.

"Right now you probably need the help of people in a clinic to do the test, but I think going forward we’ll be able to administer these to people’s homes," he said.

Green said the research team was assembled in January and included scientists from MIT, Harvard and other universities. They developed the first prototype in just six weeks.

The paper tests should be ready for use on patients in the field in a year or less, he said.

The Arizona Department of Health Services confirmed the state's first case of Zika at the end of March. A Maricopa County woman contracted the virus while traveling to a Zika-affected area outside the U.S.

The Zika virus can be transmitted by several Aedes species mosquitoes. Arizona is home to one of them called Aedes aegypti. While the mosquito is found in many parts of the state, there is no evidence of Zika transmission within Arizona, the department said.

RELATED: Information is the key to avoiding Zika infection

RELATED: Agencies restrict blood donations, fear Zika virus could affect blood supply

RESOURCE: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Zika virus page

Copyright 2016 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.


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