South Korea Develops Test Kit for the Zika Virus

David Lee, June 8, 2016, 10 a.m.

According to Korea’s Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) and the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIFP) Monday, the latter’s BioNano Health Guard Research Center and Genbody have developed a test kit that can determine the presence of the Zika virus in just 20 minutes.

The presence of the virus can be determined by placing a few drops of the suspected patient’s blood into the kit, which indicates the factuality of the infection through a color-coded line. The kit was even approved by Brazilian health authorities, creating hope in countries currently affected by the virus.

However, a greater number of experts agree that although the new kit will provide convenience and speed, it will not furnish any groundbreaking improvement. The main reason behind this dissenting prediction is the recent reliability of urine tests for Zika diagnosis.

There have been numerous cases in which urine tests showed positive results for Zika infection despite prior negative blood tests. “Although I don’t quite know how sensitive this new kit is, the latest trend is to rely on urine examinations,” said a medical official. “Putting faith in this new kit alone could result in the misdiagnosis of the virus.” 

In fact, two of the five Koreans infected with the Zika virus initially tested negative  following blood tests. The virus spreads from the blood to organs, and remains longest in reproductive organs, which is why it can be detected from urine long after (at least a week) it becomes hidden from blood samples. This is also the reason the WHO and Korea’s CDC settled on both urine and blood samples for Zika diagnosis. The United States’ CDC also revealed that urine tests are much more accurate and effective in research findings last month. 

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