New Diagnostic Technology Can Identify Zika for $1

New, cost-effective technology from a biotech start-up may be able to revolutionize Zika diagnosis.

As the Zika virus continues to make headlines, a relatively new biotech company is making a name for itself with the creation of a diagnostic device that is not only able to detect viruses quickly, but also discern the severity of the case.

According to a press release, “Biosensorix has combined the practicality of a pregnancy test with the accuracy of a blood-glucose meter.” Although self-diagnostic tools are not a new discovery by any means, when it comes to detecting viruses such as Zika and Dengue, Biosensorix’s addition to the arsenal offers a unique advantage: ELLA, an electrochemical lateral flow biosensor (ELFB) strip.

The device is not only capable of detecting viruses quickly, but it can also provide healthcare workers with “a measured analysis of bacterial, parasitic, and viral infections in biological liquids, or biotoxins in wastewater.” These in-depth diagnostics are available within ten minutes.

The prototype is thumb-sized; it looks much like a USB drive, and researchers designed it that way so that it can be connected to a “reader” that looks much like an iPhone, according to the press release.

In the press release, Luka Fajs, PhD, cofounder of Biosensorix, explained the motivation behind the design. He said, “We wanted to make something familiar. Many people don’t even know how to use most diagnostic tests. So, we needed to make something intuitive, something people would already have an idea about how it functions. The ‘USB’ stick is for one-time use, where blood is placed on a contact pad, and you just need to stick it into the reader; get the detailed diagnostics in 10 minutes; and throw it away. The plan is also to have the stick made out of biodegradable materials.”

Another asset that sets this particular device apart from other devices is that it can discern the severity of infection in addition to detecting the virus; many rapid diagnostic tools that are currently available do not offer such an in-depth analysis. Current methods are more expensive; they involve sending the sample to a laboratory to be analyzed by experienced personnel operating complicated machinery. Not only is this device able to offer these results without the use of such machinery, but it is cost effective.

Dr. Fajs said, “The first users will still be doctors and nurses, who will use our devices regularly according to regulatory procedures. It is a new technology, so we need the doctor’s approval.”

Biosensorix has developed another technology that may be even more of a breakthrough discovery in the diagnostic world than ELLA: StackPad. Stackpad, much like how it sounds, is paper-based and will “allow for multiple diagnostics, such as detecting the causative agent in child fevers.” The cost of materials? Only $1.

When speaking of future plans for Biosensorix, Dr. Fajs said, “Our long-term goal is to work with the World Health Organization to enter Africa. We are also trying to work with African, as well as Singapore investors. We are currently on the right track to make a difference, not only in Africa and Singapore, but across the world.”