New device detects chikungunya in an hour

New device detects chikungunya in an hour

Researchers have developed a new device that works just like a pregnancy test to detect chikungunya within an hour, rather than days.

Scientists at US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases modified an assay that tests whether or not a sample of mosquitoes harbours the virus responsible for the disease known as chikungunya (CHIKV).

Health workers now have a quick way to detect the presence of the CHIKV virus within an hour, rather than waiting for results of laboratory tests that take days, or even weeks, researchers said.

It is done with a chemical dipstick, the same kind of simple tool used in a pregnancy test.

If the test is positive, measures to control and contain the disease can be mobilised and started immediately, which is important because no vaccine or specific treatment for chikungunya exists.

Symptoms of chikungunya can be brutal, although it is seldom fatal. Victims experience fever and pain and swelling of muscles and joints. Headache and rash may occur. The disabling impact can last for months.

To date, tests for CHIKV require expensive equipment in a laboratory setting and technicians who have undergone extensive training.

The dipstick test can be done on site by anyone and, importantly, does not require electricity. The field worker simply has to dip the stick and look for a coloured line.

If an outbreak of chikungunya occurs, the test "could enable public health workers to detect CHIKV in infected mosquitoes rapidly without the need for specialised equipment, expertise, or training, making virus surveillance more expedient," researchers said.

The research was published in the Journal of Medical Entomology. 

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