Shining a light on Zika
An old tool that has been used for decades to determine which chemicals are in foods, the human body and pharmaceuticals could now be used to see if a mosquito is carrying the Zika virus.
The microcephaly-causing virus has spread by mosquito into many new countries in recent years, including Fiji, Samoa and Tonga. A major challenge in monitoring the situation has been the lack of fast, affordable tests.
Currently, genetic material is analysed for the virus using the reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-qPCR). But a study published in Science Advances has found that near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS) predicts Zika with between 94.2 and 99.3 per cent accuracy. NIRS simply involves shining a light at the head and thorax of the mosquito to read the chemical compounds within. It’s 18 times faster and 116 times cheaper than RT-qPCR, with no need for dissections or reagents.