Researchers at FAU work on Zika breakthrough device

BOCA RATON, FLA. (WSVN) - The fight against Zika one year later is still going strong after the outbreak raised concern here in South Florida. Now there may be a new tool to battle the virus.

Tracking infected mosquitos is expensive and takes time but research at Florida Atlantic University could change things.

Researchers at FAU are hard at work on a device that detects Zika.

“I know how these devices work, how to put things together,” said Dr. Waseem Asghar with FAU, “make it cheap, low cost.”

Instead of using a bulky machine that takes a whole day to test a blood sample, Asghar and his team are building one that tests saliva. The procedure is fast, painless and inexpensive.

“We’re expecting the total cost, material cost, would be less than $2 as compared to $30, which they’re paying right now,” Asghar said.

The device is also small and portable, making it easy to test people at airports, since most cases are found in travelers returning from areas where Zika is active. “In 15 minutes, we’ll know if someone is infected or not,” Asghar said.

Identifying people with Zika is important because the virus can be spread through sex and blood transfusions.

Pregnant women can also pass along the virus to their unborn children, which could effect the growth of the baby’s head.

“This is cutting edge research, cutting edge technology,” said president of research at FAU, Daniel Flynn.

The Florida Department of Health gave FAU a $200,000 grant to develop the new technology. “It’s very basic in that it measures the ability to capture a virus on a flat surface, so it’s a really great contribution nationally and internationally,” Flynn said.

Asghar and his team are excited about their progress.

“It’s what gets me out of bed every morning,” said grad student Chad Coarsey, “knowing that I’m going to be helping someone in the future that may need this.”

“It feels like you’re doing something very significant,” said lab assistant Ben Coleman. “As an undergrad, a lot of the projects that you get aren’t really going to have a big impact on the world, but this one is going to do that.”

The device won’t be ready for about a year, so it’s a good idea to remember to get rid of standing water to reduce mosquitos around your home.

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