Mosquito-borne viruses such as Dengue virus (DENV), Zika Virus (ZIKV) and Chikungunya Virus (CHIKV) have raised public health concerns with increasing cases of infection over the years. As DENV shares common clinical symptoms ZIKV and CHIKV, diagnosis of DENV becomes crucial in countries with co-existence of these viruses. It is important to be able to provide accurate diagnosis for timely and proper clinical management to be administered to DENV and ZIKV infected patients. The actual numbers of dengue cases are underreported with many misclassified cases because commercial diagnostic kits are too costly for countries with poor medical support. The existing kits are also not suitable for early detection, resulting in late prognosis and unfavourable clinical outcomes. The technology provider has made a breakthrough in converting an economical, non-specific detection technology into one that allows specific detection of the genes of the four DENV serotypes, ZIKV and CHIKV in a single test. Only nano-quantities of human patient serum is required for concurrent detection and differentiation of the three mosquito-borne viruses by determining the presence of viral RNA in patient’s serum. The highlight of this platform is that while it can effectively and rapidly differentiate DENV, ZIKV and CHIKV in one test, the serotypes of DENV can also be determined in the same test. This platform is capable of providing meaningful diagnosis with convenience and accuracy, yet at a cost that is significantly more economical than the current diagnostic kits.
Current diagnostic kits for DENV, ZIKV and CHIKV are neither cost effective nor highly sensitive. More importantly, none of these kits allow simultaneous detection of the four DENV serotypes, ZIKV and CHIKV in the same test. In view of these limitations, a diagnostic platform was developed on the basis of converting a non-specific SYBR Green dye detection technology into a specific mode of detection as well as quantification for the viruses to bring molecular diagnostics a step closer to the general public as an affordable mean of diagnosis that could possibly be applied widely through all public hospitals. This will lessen the burden of the hospital by identifying patients who genuinely require treatment, especially so during outbreaks where early prognosis helps to prevent severe cases of dengue from being ignored. Pregnant ladies with ZIKV infection can also be identified for close monitoring of potential complications. Moreover, this diagnostic platform needs not to be limited to the detection of the three viruses. The technology is robust enough to be customized for the detection of other related mosquito borne viruses, as long as appropriate specific primers are used.
Validation data obtained from DENV and CHIKV clinical samples have proved the efficiency of the diagnostic kit to be utilized in local diagnostic settings such as polyclinics, hospitals and public health laboratories. Such diagnostic kits will be very useful in public healthcare system, where accurate and fast detection should be made during outbreaks where medical attention can be given appropriately with no delay. In addition, such kits are also economical enough to be used for routine surveillance documentation which will help to streamline daily operation demands for governmental agencies, especially so when DENV has raised global attention over the decades with nearly half of the world’s population currently at risk (WHO). The simplicity of the SYBR Green dye detection system this diagnostic platform is based upon, allows the ease of customisation of the kit for the detection of other viruses as and when necessary. As non-sophisticated qPCR system is required, such kits can potentially be applied in regions lacking medical advancement.
DENV, ZIKV and CHIKV are three medically important mosquito-borne viruses that affect many parts of the world. With no proper vaccine available, there is a need for a highly sensitive, cost-effective and rapid diagnostic platform for detection and differentiation of DENV, ZIKV and CHIKV to improve patient management and administer immediate medical attention to acute phase cases, which occurs at early stages of infection.