Sequenced Zika Strain Now Aiding Diagnoses

     (CN) — Researchers have sequenced a strain of the Zika virus that will be used to identify infections in the blood, making it easier to diagnose the disease.
     The results were published Thursday in the journal Genome Announcements.
     While the reference material will undergo formal review by the World Health Organization in October, the agency has approved the sequenced strain’s use given the urgent need for medical products in the ongoing battle against Zika.
     “WHO’s go-ahead before its expert committee meeting in October reflects the urgent need for researchers and companies to access valid reference material to diagnose Zika virus infection,” said lead investigator Sally Baylis, a scientist at Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Langen, Germany. “This will facilitate the development of sensitive, better performing tests to detect Zika in patients.”
     The virus has spread across Latin America and the Caribbean since 2015, and local transmission has since been reported in Florida and Singapore.
     Earlier this year, the WHO declared the Zika epidemic a public health emergency of international concern due to complications that can arise in newborns when pregnant mothers contract the infection.
     Microcephaly and other central nervous system abnormalities have been reported in a large number of fetuses and newborn infants since the epidemic began. Microcephaly leads to abnormally small heads and potential brain damage in infants.
     Research has indicated the virus can remain in an infant’s system for roughly two to three months after birth, though further analysis is needed.
     Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that leads to the body attacking parts of the peripheral nervous system, has been thought to be caused by Zika infection in a small number of adults. Another study published Wednesday by the Pan American Health Organization found a strong association between the disease and the virus.
     Reference standards from the WHO are used to standardize diagnostic testing internationally.

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