Given the likelihood of a massive Zika virus outbreak and mounting fears of the virus that can cause birth defects and brain damage, protecting the blood supply has become a priority. At such a challenging and precarious time, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has recently advised that all blood centers to begin screening for Zika. To tap into a surging demand for a simple, quick, and cheap screening solution to save more lives, the Taiwanese team, which has collaborated with Danish scientists for years, leads the way to a screening revolution.
To stop the Zika outbreak, USAID launched a campaign to select nearly two dozen projects among 900 which are believed to be able to rid the world of Zika and other mosquitoes-related diseases. Researchers of the winning projects can receive an USAID grant to pursue new solution to the Zika outbreak.
Among the 21 winning projects, a new blood test method co-developed by National Taiwan University and Technical University of Denmark steals the spotlight. The solution consists of a small device which combines nanotechnology with a chip designed to recognize the virus; a single drop of blood is enough to complete analysis.
Both Denmark and Taiwan have had reports of imported cases of the Zika virus.
Dr. Edwin Hu, who led the team at national Taiwan University to work with the Technical University of Denmark, was quoted as saying that the innovative solution puts together an advanced optical disc drive and nanotechnology to produce an affordable lab-level machine that can significantly benefit the least developed regions.
“Commercial production is slated for 2017 if approved by EU and Taiwan’s authorities, with prices yet to be determined,” Hu said.
Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang indicated that there are only 11 laboratories nationwide capable of performing Zika virus testing, while the length of time required to identify the infected blood is at least three hours for the time being.
“The agency is looking forward to the new solution in which analysis can be completed in less than 10 minutes and is as accurate as a lab test,” Chuang said.
Taiwan recently recorded its seventh imported case of Zika virus infection. The CDC announced this past Saturday that a 20-year-old local college student, female, Singaporean, was found having contracted the virus after returning from Singapore.