A University of Stirling scientist is at the centre of ground-breaking research to tackle the Chikungunya virus (CHIKV).
Virologist, Dr Manfred Weidmann, is the only British University scientist involved in a new international collaboration focused on developing a point-of-care detection method for immediate use in fighting the Chikungunya virus, amosquito-borne virus currently transmitted in about 60 countries after having spread to the Americas in recent years.
The disease is difficult to distinguish from other infections transmitted by mosquitoes, such as Dengue fever or Zika virus, but the new detection kit specifically identifies the illness by detecting a Chikungunya virus gene. The rapid point-of-care blood and saliva test detects the nucleic acid of the Chikungunya virus in 15 minutes and could help to provide diagnostics and care to people who live in rural areas with no access to modern medical infrastructure.
CHIKV infection causes symptoms that are similar to Dengue and Zika infection, which sometimes are mistaken for influenza.
Dr Weidmann, from the University’s Faculty of Natural Sciences, said:
“Zika, Dengue and CHIKV viruses are now being transmitted at the same time in several regions of the world and have very similar symptoms typical for a virus infection. Our diagnostic test is able to identify Chickungunya fever and will help clinicians quickly decide on appropriate supportive treatments available.”
Last year, Dr Weidmann played a major role in the development of an Ebola rapid detection and diagnosis test, which is still being used in Guinea by collaborators of the Pasteur Institute in Dakar, Senegal.
The CHIKV project brought together scientists from across Europe, Thailand and Senegal to develop bedside rapid diagnostics for the virus. Following a successful pilot in Thailand and Senegal, evaluation of the detection kit showed its potential to provide an efficient point of care test.
“Our test can go to the limit of detection in just 15 minutes,” added Dr Weidmann. It is very important to have empowered and trained local teams to conduct the on-site tests for themselves. The race is on to tackle these viruses and our detection kit is a step in the right direction.”