Rockville biotech company develops first Zika virus test
As the World Health Organization declares a new public health emergency, one Maryland company says it has created a test to help stop the virus before it is transmitted to humans.
GenArraytion, Inc., a biotech firm located in Rockville, has developed a molecular test to identify the Zika virus in mosquitoes. The test works with one of GenArraytion’s existing products that focuses on viruses caused by the Aedes aegypti mosquito – yellow fever, dengue fever, Chikungunya, and now Zika virus.
“The Zika virus has the potential to become a serious epidemic, with as many four million people risking exposure in the next year if the mosquito population isn’t controlled, according to the Pan American Health Organization,” said Paul Schaudies, CEO of GenArraytion. “GenArraytion’s test directly identifies the virus, thereby making it easier for public health officials to rapidly pinpoint sources of infection and to eradicate infected mosquito populations.”
The test is currently available for research use only and could potentially allow towns and surveillance labs to monitor mosquito populations.
“Maryland’s innovation economy has a strong history of responding to major public health issues, and it is a great source of pride for our region that one of our members, GenArraytion, has rapidly developed a critical test in finding a solution to the Zika virus,” said Phil Schiff, CEO of the Tech Council of Maryland.
According to the New York Times, the mosquito-borne disease has been reported in more than 20 countries since early 2015. The virus is known for producing common symptoms like fever, rash, and joint pain. And while long-term effects are still unknown, experts say it could be the cause of thousands of birth defects in Brazil including microcephaly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, microcephaly is a condition where a baby’s head is small than expected, possibly due to the brain not fully developing during pregnancy.