A new assay developed in the United States helps to detect the virus that causes chikungunya (CHIKV) within an hour. This is expected to cut down the waiting time for results of laboratory tests that take days, or even weeks.
Chikungunya is transmitted by the bite of infective female Aedes mosquitoes. Victims experience fever, pain and swelling of muscles and joints. Headache and rash may occur. The disabling impact can last for months.
If an outbreak of chikungunya occurs, the test "could enable public health workers to detect CHIKV in infected mosquitoes rapidly without the need for specialized equipment, expertise, or training, making virus surveillance more expedient," wrote the study authors.
The new device, tested by scientists at US Army Medical Research Institute for infectious diseases, is the same kind of simple tool used in a pregnancy test as it works with a chemical dipstick.
To date, tests for CHIKV require expensive equipment in a laboratory setting and technicians who have undergone extensive training.
The new dipstick test developed by US-based VecTOR Test Systems Inc can be done on site by a neophyte and, importantly, does not require electricity. The field worker simply has to dip the stick and look for a colored line, the findings showed.
It would mean the difference between nipping an outbreak in the bud and a major public health crisis.
The results were detailed in the Journal of Medical Entomology.