Low cost, faster test for chikungunya

indian researchers have developed a rapid test for chikungunya virus, which they claim to be "more sensitive' and "more specific' than current diagnostic techniques. The test will detect the viral gene in serum samples of patients.

This new reverse transcription loop-mediated isothermal amplification (rt-lamp) test is developed by India's Defence Research and Development Establishment, and Nizam's Institute of Medical Sciences with Japan's Nagasaki University. The research published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology (February, 2007), says the new test will aid developing countries with its relative simplicity, real-time value and low cost.

In India, chikungunya affected more than 1.25 million people in 2006.There is no vaccine or antiviral therapy against the illness and detection depends on virus isolation from the blood samples by the conventional reverse transcription rt-pcr method. "However, rt-pcr test is time-consuming as it uses a few specific serological or molecular diagnosis tools. With the renewed threat of the disease, it proves ineffective,' says lead researcher M Parida.

The test precisely detects a gene, e1, from the virus and is 10 times more sensitive and specific than the current rt-pcr test. "The new test takes just 30 minutes unlike rt-pcr, which needs three to four hours,' says Parida.

Before large scale use, the test needs to be further assessed, Parida says. The researchers are now looking for industry partners for technology transfer.