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A simple identification tool can help countries control the spread of Zika virus

Photo: Qld researchers help develop Zika ID tool
University of Queensland researchers are hoping a simple identification tool can help countries control the spread of Zika virus.

A cost-effective tool developed in part by University of Queensland researchers to quickly identify mosquitoes infected with Zika virus is being tested in Brazil.

Working in partnership with Brazilian colleagues, Queensland Alliance for Agriculture and Food Innovation researchers Maggy Sikulu-Lord and Jill Fernandes have discovered Near Infrared Spectroscopy (NIRS) can identify mosquitoes with the disease.

The researchers claim the technique, which involves shining a beam of light on the mosquitoes to determine if the insect is infected, is 18-times faster and 110-times cheaper than the current detection method.
"We can quickly identify mosquitoes that are infected with Zika virus so public health authorities can treat affected areas before disease spreads to humans," Dr Sikulu-Lord said.

"This is definitely going to be a game-changer in disease surveillance, especially in the prediction of disease outbreaks."

NIRS technology has been shown to have a 94 to 99 per cent accuracy rate in identifying infected mosquitoes in labratory conditions in Brazil.

The technique is now being tested under field conditions in Rio de Janeiro.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus which can cause abnormalities in unborn babies and has been linked to the paralysing condition called Guillain-Barre Syndrome.

Dr Sikulu-Lord hopes the World Health Organisation will use NIRS in countries where Zika is endemic to predict outbreaks and treat mosquito populations in time.

She also believes the technique had the potential to detect several other diseases including dengue fever or malaria.


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