The dengue, zika and chikungunya viruses require special attention for public health preparedness due to their rapid spread in recent decades and cause of serious illness. They are transmitted by the mosquitos Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus and are a major international health concern since their dissemination has increased greatly in urban areas due to travel and globalization. The WHO estimates that there are 3.2 billion people living in endemic areas where the mosquitoes thrive and that collectively these diseases account for more than 150 million infections every year.
The three diseases have similar initial symptoms, but the potential disease outcomes are life-threatening and distinct for each disease, thus the need for an accurate diagnosis.
Lateral flow strips are widely used in point of care (POC) devices, such as pregnancy tests, disease diagnostics, etc. because they can be operated by non-experts, they are inexpensive, portable, and do not require electric power to be operated. By enabling mobile phone readability of the diagnosis results, we will be able to obtain real-time epidemiologic data on the spread of the disease.
These effective, fast, reliable and inexpensive lateral flow devices, together with our new techniques for data analysis and reporting and methods to screen and identify antibodies for lateral flow assays, will represent significant improvements to field detection of dengue, zika, and chikungunya epidemiology in situations where there is a lack of specialized personnel or materials. Current work is being done in Mumbai, in collaboration with an industry partner, testing the devices with PCR-confirmed serum samples from patients affected by dengue and chikungunya.