University of Pennsylvania engineers report they have developed a $2 field test that reliably detects Zika virus in saliva within 40 minutes.
The existing test involves a common method called polymerase chain reaction, which requires the use of a laboratory and electricity -- a challenge in remote areas.
The Penn test, on the other hand, delivers results on the spot, the authors report in the journal Analytical Chemistry.
If their genetic assay detects the presence of the virus, a piece of paper in lid of the device turns blue.
The test is based on a stretch of genetic code that is nearly identical for 19 different strains of the Zika virus infecting people in the Americas, but is not found in other pathogens.
With a rapid test in hand, public health officials could more quickly determine where to deploy management strategies. One such method is the use of condoms, as the virus can be sexually transmitted.