Zika reference strain sequenced, to aid in diagnosis
Scientists have sequenced a strain of the Zika virus that will be used as a World Health Organisation (WHO) reference strain to identify infection in the blood, thus making it easier to diagnose the disease. While the reference material will undergo formal WHO review in October, the agency has given the go-ahead for the strain’s use given the urgent need of medical products to diagnose and treat Zika, researchers said.
“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 principal investigator Sally Baylis, senior scientist at Paul-Ehrlich-Institut in Germany. “This will facilitate the development of sensitive, better performing tests to detect Zika in patients,” said Baylis. Zika virus has been spreading across South and Central America since early 2015 and has now emerged in Florida, researchers said. While most infections are mild and asymptomatic, the WHO declared the current Zika an epidemic.