It could be a major breakthrough in the battle against the Zika virus.
Researchers at the University of Florida have come up with a test that could take a lot less time and cost a lot less money to detect the virus in mosquitoes and humans.
“That's a big dea,” said Pasco County Mosquito Control Director Dennis Moore, talking about a potentially huge announcement from University of Florida researchers.
The new test would dramatically speed up the time it takes to detect the virus. From weeks – to minutes.
“The more mosquitoes that were able to control, particularly if we know that they are actively transmitting the virus, the safer the public is going to be,” said Moore.
Before this new test, a patient with flu-like Zika symptoms might go to the doctor or hospital. A fairly expensive test would be performed and the kit would then be shipped off to a state laboratory.
The results, might take days or weeks.
The new test, which detects a mosquito’s genetic material in humans, costs under $5. And results take only about thirty minutes.
“That's a big difference from what's currently being done at the state labs,” said Moore.
Imagine, says Moore, how much faster and more aggressively his and other mosquito control departments could now respond to an area with a confirmed case of Zika - before it has a chance to be transmitted.
The virus has been linked to microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.
“If we can find out within an hour if a mosquito is positive or not, it changes the whole approach,” he said.
With swarms of mosquitoes invading the Bay Area since the rains returned, people say they're glad to hear about the breakthrough.
“Get it quicker. Get the disease controlled faster,” said Sandra Rivera, a New Port Richey mother who won’t even let her kids out of the house to play when the mosquitoes are this thick.
“It would be a big deal. Especially, for all the expectant mothers and children out there,” added Amy Erraji, a mother of three.
Researchers say the new test can even detect the amount of Zika present in mosquitos’ saliva, which can be a strong indicator of the insect's potential to spread the virus.
Research on the new tests will continue for the next few weeks, but it could be ready for use by the end of summer.
The same test, say researchers, will also be able to detect other mosquito-borne diseases like Chikungunya and Dengue.