UT Professor of Molecular Bio-Sciences Dr. Andrew Ellington says the university is working on refining a DIY or "Do It Yourself" diagnostic to test for Zika Virus.
"Either be able to from saliva, identify if a human has the virus or from a mosquito, whether that crushed mosquito contains the virus. Either way we hope to be able to assist with public health efforts to track the virus," Ellington said.
Research educator Dr. Timothy Riedel has an early prototype. You just put the mosquito in and you'll have results in less than an hour.
"You actually see it glowing bright green if it's positive. If it's not glowing at all, it's totally clear if it's negative," Riedel said.
Dr. Ellington says whether the device will be marketed to the public or not is still up in the air.
"It used to be that we took Taxi Cabs and now we take Uber, right? There's citizen participation in the public transportation system to a first approximation. So do we want to involve the public in public health efforts? If we do, yeah! We can give this to folks to put in their backyard, we can give it to companies that spray for mosquitoes," Ellington said.
The device will also come with a cell-phone reader.
"You're not going to have to worry too much about staring at it and trying to interpret it. We're going to have a cell phone app, you take a picture. It really helps you understand, is that a positive, is that a negative?" Riedel said.
"The great thing about the cell phone, potentially also with respect to public participation in public health is you could upload the results. You could potentially have GPS localization. Zika here, Zika here, Zika not there," Ellington said.
But whoever ends up using it...
"Could we test and see where there is disease so that we could as a community, as a group say 'wow maybe we should focus some prevention efforts here,'" Ellington said.
UT says because Zika came around so fast, the funding for research is just now catching up. So they are looking for some funding for the student's research.
You can donate at hornraiser.utexas.edu. Its kind of like a UT "kickstarter" site.
By the way, there have been 358 cases of Zika in the U.S. but none of those patients got the virus in the U.S.
The City of Austin says Zika is definitely a concern as we head into mosquito season.