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Researchers have received a provisional U.S. patent to develop a simple device that can be used to identify the Zika virus peptides in saliva outside of the laboratory. (Photograph: Jarun Ontakrai/Shutterstock)
0 Comments Aug 28, 2017 | News Americas

Researchers test new means of Zika diagnosis

Post a comment by Dental Tribune International

LONDON, Ontario, Canada: Researchers have used proteomics to examine proteins and peptides in saliva in order to accurately detect exposure to the Zika virus. With 70 countries and territories reporting evidence of mosquito-borne Zika transmission, there is an increased need for a rapid and effective test for the virus.

By analyzing the saliva of a mother infected with Zika during pregnancy and her twins—one born with microcephaly and one without—the researchers from the University of Western Ontario were able to pinpoint the specific protein signature for Zika that is present in saliva. This discovery may provide an effective way to screen for exposure. The team of international scientists, led by Dr. Walter Siqueira, also uncovered important clues about how the virus passes from mother to baby and its role in the development of microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby’s head is abnormally small and its brain underdeveloped.

The research findings suggest a vertical transmission of the virus between mother and baby. The mutations in the amino acid sequence of the peptides were different for each twin, indicating that these mutations may play a role in whether a baby will develop microcephaly.

Currently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention use blood tests to look for changes to RNA in order to diagnose Zika. The drawback to this method is that it is only able to detect the virus for up to five to seven days after exposure. Siqueira pointed out that, because the proteins and the peptides that come directly from the virus are more stable than RNA, saliva proteomics can detect the virus far longer after exposure than with the current method. In the study, the window of detection was extended to nine months post-infection.

“We are very excited to publish findings that shed light on the transmission of Zika virus and present an innovative approach to assessing the presence of Zika virus,” said Journal of Dental Research Editor-In-Chief Dr. William Giannobile. “This research has the potential to positively impact global health. By detecting the virus, the infected individuals can have their symptoms and the virus progression properly monitored, as well as take action to stop the spread of the virus which causes these devastating craniofacial defects in newborns.”

The study, titled “Postnatal identification of Zika virus peptides from saliva,” was published in the September issue of the Journal of Dental Research.

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