New test extends window for accurate detection of Zika

March 6, 2018, American Society for Microbiology
Credit: American Society for Microbiology

Diagnosis of Zika infection is complex. Molecular tests for exposure are only reliable in the first two to three weeks after infection while the virus is circulating in the bloodstream. Antibody tests are confounded by cross-reactivity of antibodies to Zika with dengue, yellow fever, and Japanese encephalitis viruses following infection or vaccination. A new blood test called ZIKV-NS2B-concat ELISA is faster, less expensive, and extends the window of accurate detection from weeks to months after the onset of infection, giving clinicians a powerful new tool to screen for Zika throughout pregnancy.

The new Zika test is detailed in the scientific journal mBio and was developed by scientists at the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health and their colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley; Ministry of Health of Nicaragua; Walter Reed Army Institute of Research; Erasmus University Medical Centre; New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene; New York State Department of Health; and Roche Diagnostics.

To develop and evaluate the test, the researchers analyzed blood samples collected from children in the Nicaraguan Pediatric Dengue Cohort Study, all of whom had previously tested positive for Zika . Using a microarray, they identified a unique peptide sequence—a short section of amino acids—that binds with antibodies to Zika virus but not with antibodies to similar viruses like dengue, , and Japanese encephalitis. Next, the researchers customized a low-cost testing technology called enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) to work with the sequence—improving on current versions of the ELISA test which use larger sections proteins that bind to the virus. (The researchers recently used the same method to build the first multiplex test for tick-borne diseases.)

ZIKV-NS2B-concat ELISA is both highly specific and sensitive, with rates of false positives and false negatives of less than 5 percent in the two to three weeks after acute illness, even without symptoms. The new test quickly detects up to 200 samples in four hours and the researchers anticipate its cost will be similar to other ELISA tests used in clinical settings.

"Many people infected by Zika have only mild illness, or are unable to see a clinician in the early, acute phase of infection," says lead author Nischay Mishra, Ph.D., an associate research scientist at the Center for Infection and Immunity. "Our new test greatly extends the window during which an individual can be assessed with accuracy."

Infection with Zika virus during pregnancy raises risk for neurodevelopmental problems in the offspring, including fetal microcephaly in at least one in ten pregnancies. In adults, Zika can trigger Guillain-Barré syndrome, which causes the immune system to attack the nerves. Since the emergence of Zika virus in the Americas in 2015, 583,144 cases have been reported to World Health Organization, with costs estimated as high as $18 billion between 2015 and 2017. However, long-term costs will likely be much higher given the additional, as-yet-unknown complications from congenital infections.

"An affordable and accurate test for Zika virus is critical for ," says senior author W. Ian Lipkin, MD, director of CII and John Snow Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health. "Even absent symptoms of illness or evidence of birth defects, Zika may inflict long-term harm on the person infected or their offspring."

Explore further: Prior dengue or yellow fever exposure does not worsen Zika infection in monkeys

Related Stories

Prior dengue or yellow fever exposure does not worsen Zika infection in monkeys

August 4, 2017
Rhesus macaques previously infected with dengue or yellow fever viruses appear to be neither more nor less susceptible to severe infection with Zika virus, according to new research published in PLOS Pathogens.

Laboratory technique can detect Zika virus infection and make diagnostic tests more accessible

December 22, 2017
A new test for the Zika virus could help limit future outbreaks, especially in areas without access to sophisticated diagnostic methods.

Zika virus: Five things to know

February 8, 2016
A concise "Five things to know about.... Zika virus infection" article for physicians highlights key points about this newly emerged virus in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal)

Researchers invent a faster and more accurate test for diagnosing Zika

January 23, 2017
Researchers from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, in conjunction with the New York State Department of Health's Wadsworth Center, have developed a new detection test for Zika that is faster and more accurate ...

Pregnancy problems not necessarily tied to Zika viral load or Dengue fever

June 13, 2017
UCLA-led researchers have found that Zika viral load and the degree of Zika symptoms during pregnancy were not necessarily associated with problems during pregnancy or fetal abnormalities at birth. They also found that the ...

Findings add to evidence of association between Zika virus and Guillain-Barre syndrome

October 17, 2017
An examination of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome in Puerto Rico identified Zika virus infection as a risk factor, according to a study published by JAMA.

Recommended for you

New hope for cystic fibrosis

October 19, 2018
A new triple-combination drug treatment being trialled at the Mater Hospital in Brisbane could increase the life expectancy of patients with cystic fibrosis.

Bug guts shed light on Central America Chagas disease

October 18, 2018
In Central America, Chagas disease, or American trypanosomiasis, is spread by the "kissing bug" Triatoma dimidiata. By collecting DNA from the guts of these bugs, researchers reporting in PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases ...

Rapid genomic sequencing of Lassa virus in Nigeria enabled real-time response to 2018 outbreak

October 18, 2018
Mounting a collaborative, real-time response to a Lassa fever outbreak in early 2018, doctors and scientists in Nigeria teamed up with researchers at Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and colleagues to rapidly sequence the ...

Researchers cure drug-resistant infections without antibiotics

October 17, 2018
Biochemists, microbiologists, drug discovery experts and infectious disease doctors have teamed up in a new study that shows antibiotics are not always necessary to cure sepsis in mice. Instead of killing causative bacteria ...

Infectious disease consultation significantly reduces mortality of patients with bloodstream yeast infections

October 17, 2018
In a retrospective cohort study conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham Division of Infectious Diseases, patients with candidemia—a yeast infection in the bloodstream—had more positive outcomes as they relate ...

How drug resistant TB evolved and spread globally

October 17, 2018
The most common form of Mycobacterium tuberculosis (TB) originated in Europe and spread to Asia, Africa and the Americas with European explorers and colonialists, reveals a new study led by UCL and the Norwegian Institute ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.