A reliable diagnosis of the Zika virus is especially important for pregnant women. © NIAID

A reliable diagnosis of the Zika virus is especially important for pregnant women.
Photo: © NIAID

New and reliable Zika virus diagnosis

Scientists of Freiburg University in Germany have developed a test for the Zika virus that has demonstrated a high accuracy. A reliable diagnosis is particularly important during pregnancy because Zika virus infections have grave consequences for the development of brain and skull of the foetus.

The Zika virus is currently spreading rapidly in South and Central America. A major criterion for its diagnosis is the detection of antibodies against the virus in the blood. But the tests available to date often also reacted to antibodies against related viruses such as the tick-borne encephalitis virus (TBEV) or to a corresponding protective vaccination.

Researchers from Freiburg University Medical Centre in Germany have now been able to establish that such earlier infections or vaccination do not interfere with a new antibody test only recently on the market.  The scientists presented their findings in the journal Eurosurveillance.
Infections with the Zika virus in pregnancy can cause serious defects to the brain and skull of the foetus and even be fatal. The safety offered by the new tests is therefore especially relevant for pregnant women.

For their study, the researchers investigated at total of 114 Zika-virus-free blood samples of persons with laboratory-confirmed TBEV infection, TBEV-vaccination, hepatitis C, dengue-infection or yellow fever vaccination, and as a control eleven tests with antibodies against Zika viruses.  In all cases the tests delivered accurate results. The blood samples originated from the blood serum bank of the Institute of Virology of the University of Freiburg Medical Centre where anonymised samples are kept for at least ten years in compliance with data-protection regulations.

Approximately every fifth person infected with the Zika virus developed symptoms such as fever, skin rash, headaches and joint pains, all of which abated after approximately one week. It is not yet possible to treat the infection, stressed the Freiburg scientists. In cases of suspected Zika infection a laboratory diagnostics clarification is recommended. This also allows infections that occurred some time ago to be detected.

Title of the original paper:
High specificity of a novel Zika virus ELISA in European patients after exposure to different flaviviruses  DOI: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2016.21.16.30203 

(Freiburg University /wi)

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