It looks like a small Thermos, but the partially 3D printed device invented by engineers at the University of Pennsylvania has a much more important function than keeping beverages warm or cold. The soda-can-sized device can detect the presence of the Zika virus, simply by testing a bit of a patient’s saliva. For a disease that causes few distinguishable symptoms, a tool that can detect the virus quickly and easily is a critical development.
Several tests for the Zika virus currently exist, but each presents its own challenges and limitations. One method of testing involves the detection of antibodies produced by the body in response to the virus, but it’s an imperfect system, as a) a patient in the early stages of infection may not have produced enough antibodies to trigger the test, or b) someone suffering from an unrelated infection may produce antibodies similar enough to cause a false positive result.