Zika virus detection kits are likely to reach the market by March and cost around Rs 4,500, leading diagnostic chains have said, amidst a spiralling global health crisis triggered by a viral outbreak suspected to cause birth defects.
Leading pathology labs and diagnostic chains -- Dr Lal PathLabs, SRL Diagnostics, Quest Diagnostics and Star Imaging -- have already started procuring test kits and working on new technologies to detect the Zika virus, officials of the companies told HT.
On Tuesday, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the disease caused by a mosquito-borne virus an international health emergency.
There are no known cases of Zika in India yet though the government has issued an advisory asking expectant mothers to avoid travelling to affected countries, most of them in Latin America.
Dr Lal PathLabs, which recently listed on the Bombay Stock Exchange, is ready to roll out a detection test for Zika virus by next month which would cost about Rs 4,500, the company spokesperson said.
“Saliva or urine samples collected during the first three to five days after symptoms onset, or blood serum collected in the first three days, are suitable for detection of Zika virus,” the spokesperson said.
“We have had queries from hospitals based in Mumbai, Delhi as well as Sri Lanka as of now. We should be ready with the assay by mid-March as kits to perform tests would be available with us by the first week of March.”
Dr BR Das, president, research and innovation, at SRL Diagnostics, the country’s largest and Asia’s second largest diagnostics chain in terms of volume of tests handled, said the company was ready to join hands with technology providers for developing the test kit.
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“For Zika virus detection, a blood test known as real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is required and we are updating our information globally,” he added.
However, Das refused to divulge details on estimated pricing.
US diagnostics major Quest Diagnostics circulated an internal document to its Indian offices last week saying that the “company is working around technology to detect Zika virus attack”, according to an official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Delhi-based chain Star Imaging & Path Lab is tendering vendors to supply kits required to conduct tests. “We have kicked off the process and it seems that the PCR test is the most valid as of now,” said Prabhjot Kaur Chopra, pathology department at Star Imaging.
French pharmaceutical major Sanofi -- which owns an array of top vaccines for viruses in the same family -- on Tuesday launched a project to develop a Zika vaccine.
“Our invaluable collaborations with scientific and public health experts, both globally and in the regions affected by the outbreaks of Zika virus, together with the mobilisation of our best experts will expedite efforts to research and develop a vaccine for this disease,” said Dr John Shiver, Global Head of R&D, Sanofi Pasteur.
The world’s first dengue vaccine, from Sanofi, was approved in December after 20 years of research.