CSBS News Desk
Senegalese researchers who helped contain the Ebola epidemic in West Africa are training Brazilians on how to tackle the Zika virus. They have brought along a mobile lab which quickly detects the virus.
Senegalese researcher Amadou Alpha Sall brought with him to Brazil a small team and a lab which fits into a bag. He wants to help Brazilians defeat the current epidemic of mosquito-borne Zika.
The virus is suspected to have caused up to 3,530 cases of brain damage in newborns through microcephaly in Brazil since last year. Microcpehaly is a rare neurological condition in which an infant’s head is significantly smaller than the heads of other children of the same age and sex. It can be caused by genetic or environmental factors and often causes severe brain damage.
Amadou Alpha Sall who is director of research at the Pasteur Institute in the Senegalese capital Dakar was on the frontline of the war on Ebola in West Africa. Together with colleagues from São Paulo University’s Institute of Biomedical Sciences (USP), Sall and his team of five travelled to Recife, in the federal state of Pernambuco. It is one of the areas with the highest incidence of Zika infections, with more than 1,200 cases of microcephaly registered.
Sall and his team carry a mobile laboratory which can diagnose the virus in a blood sample in only 15 minutes. The system developed by the Dakar team was decisive in helping contain the Ebola epidemic in West Africa. Researchers hope it will be just as effective in fighting Zika in Brazil.
The compact lab was adapted to be able to recognize the Zika virus. It can easily be transported to the most remote corners of the country. It operates on solar energy, which is important in villages where there is still no electricity.
Sall told newsmen that he wants to train Brazilians in detecting the virus early enough: “If you can’t identify the virus, you will have no way of telling whether the epidemic is advancing, stabilizing or ebbing,” he added.
The medical equipment comes with a price tag of about 8,000 euros ($8,650). But USP professor Paolo Zanotto hopes that it can be built in Brazil at a much lower cost. Zanotto has been collaborating with Sall in a series of projects for the last 15 years.
Source: All Africa