Identify Peptides to Speed Development of Zika Diagnostics

Peptides to Distinguish Flaviviruses

Organization: J. Craig Venter Institute

Location: La Jolla, California, USA

Problem: Zika-specific surveillance is difficult because clinical confirmation requires detection or sequencing of viral RNA, which only circulates in the human bloodstream for approximately 1 week after onset of symptoms, and because there is broad cross-reactivity of existing serological methods. Accurately measuring the prevalence or diagnosing a patient after recovery from infection depends on the ability to distinguish serum reactivity among the various Flaviviruses.

Solution: The team proposes to design a high-throughput peptide array technology to identify immunodominant peptides capable of distinguishing 10 Flavivirus taxa. Using the identified immunodominant peptides, the team will generate an indirect ELISA protocol that can be used in developing countries to accurately measure the seroprevalence of multiple Flavivirus species simultaneously, including ZIKV and be developed further into a point-of-care diagnostic. The solution will provide increased insight into the demographic, geographic, and clinical attributes that contribute to ZIKV infection. The peptide array results will greatly augment the 9-currently-known human epitopes for non-Dengue Flaviviruses and will enhance future surveillance and detection efforts.


Headshot of Brett Pickett

Brett Pickett – Asst. Professor, J. Craig Venter Institute, Brigham Young University; PhD, University of Alabama at Birmingham; Post-Doc at University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas

"When I was living in the Dominican Republic, I became sick with a terrible infection. I spoke with a medical professional who was only able to say that the infection was likely caused by a mosquito-borne virus and that the symptoms should disappear in a week. Although I made a full recovery, I still don’t know which virus made me sick. Similarly, there are many people around the world living in areas where Zika virus is circulating who become infected with Zika but don’t get sick enough to go to the hospital. However, it is still important for them to know if they were infected with Zika and whether they are at risk of either passing the virus to their fetus or developing other health problems in the future. Access to an improved diagnostic for antibodies against Zika virus will enable patients to be more informed and health professionals to make better treatment decisions."

Headshot of M. Pilar Martinez Viedma

M. Pilar Martinez Viedma – Postdoctoral Research, J. Craig Venter Institute; PhD, University of Jaen; Post-Doc fellowship, Harvard Medical School

"As a postdoctoral researcher, my main goal is to apply my skills and knowledge in virology, microbiology, molecular biology, and immunology to help solve health human problems. ZIKV has become a huge risk for many people around the world, especially for women. Currently, the lack of a specific serodiagnostic method to differentiate past infection with Zika makes it difficult to identify patients who have been exposed previously. I feel proud to research how cells respond during Zika infection and to develop a more specific method for its detection."

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