Zika virus, is a virus spread by mosquitoes, and while it doesn’t have serious consequences for most people, it can be very harmful for pregnant women. Within the last few years there have been several outbreaks reported in the US and UK among other places. Infected pregnant women have serious symptoms, with the virus causing birth defects. On the other hand, for most people it is a mild infection and is rarely harmful.
As with any infection, the best way to avoid it is to detect infected individuals early and treat them. But detecting Zika among other more common viruses is tricky and methods like PCR take time. Additionally it is unlikely that a person with mild symptoms won’t assume this is unrelated even if he had recently visited a country with a higher risk of being infected.
For this problem, several researchers have tried to develop technologies to detect the Zika virus easily and affordably. One of the most interesting technologies i found (linked below) involved graphene to detect the virus.
Graphene has many interesting properties and it can be used in multiple scenarios. It is made out of a single layer of carbon atoms. A property exploited in this application is its electric conductivity.
In this recent study, a sensor using graphene is shown that is able to detect small proteins that bind on it. This happens because, when a protein binds to the receptor on the graphene layer the current changes and it is registered by the computer. So when a virus particle binds to graphene it acts like a switch.
This was proven to be very accurate and a lot more sensitive than PCR methods. Additionally it doesn’t require any big machines, reagents or a lot of technical knowledge thus it could be used in many environments and by many people.
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