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Harvard researchers develop fast and cheap way to check blood or saliva for Zika virus

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Researchers at Harvard University have devised a test to quickly and cheaply detect the Zika virus in blood or saliva, offering a much-needed method for remote testing, a study said Friday.

Public health experts have warned that the lack of standardized diagnostic tests for Zika, which can cause birth defects, presents a major problem for efforts to understand and prevent the disease.

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The new test can detect viruses “at significantly lower concentrations than previously possible,” said the study by scientists at Harvard’s Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.

The proof-of-concept demonstration showed the tool could work in monkeys, and would cost less than a dollar per patient, according to the findings published in the journal Cell.

The tool shows its results “through a simple ‘color-change’ assay, which an untrained eye can easily use to evaluate whether Zika is present or not in a biological sample,” according to the report.

The CDC has already approved two tests for diagnosing Zika, known as the Zika MAC-ELISA and Trioplex Real-Time RT-PCR Assay.

However, the tests are complicated and sometimes confuse Zika with similar viruses such as West Nile or dengue.

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The new test could be available in the next several months, and would “improve upon key limitations of currently available options for Zika detection, such as potential cross-reactivity with closely-related viruses and a lack of specialized skills or equipment to screen for the virus outside of large urban areas,” said the report.

Meanwhile, another study unveiled details about how the mosquito-borne Zika virus attacks the brain, killing and shrinking cells and resulting in babies born with unusually small heads, a condition known as microcephaly.

Published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the research was led by scientists at the University of San Diego School of Medicine.

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The CDC has already approved two tests for diagnosing Zika, known as the Zika MAC-ELISA and Trioplex Real-Time RT-PCR Assay.

However, the tests are complicated and sometimes confuse Zika with similar viruses such as West Nile or dengue.

ADVERTISEMENT

The new test could be available in the next several months, and would “improve upon key limitations of currently available options for Zika detection, such as potential cross-reactivity with closely-related viruses and a lack of specialized skills or equipment to screen for the virus outside of large urban areas,” said the report.

Meanwhile, another study unveiled details about how the mosquito-borne Zika virus attacks the brain, killing and shrinking cells and resulting in babies born with unusually small heads, a condition known as microcephaly.

Published in the journal Cell Stem Cell, the research was led by scientists at the University of San Diego School of Medicine.

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Disturbing video exposes the dangerous message a State Patrol officer told team: ‘Don’t kill them, but hit them hard’

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Krystal Marx, the executive director of Seattle Pride, shared a disturbing video this week revealing the violent message an officer in the Washington State Patrol gave to his team as it prepared to confront protesters.

“Don’t kill them, but hit them hard,” he said as he walked through a group of his colleagues.

“I remember shaking,” Marx told the Seattle Times of the experience filming the patrol from her office window. “Why not say, ‘Restrain them, calmly’?”

Chris Loftis, a spokesperson for the patrol, gave the Times a statement trying to explain away the comment as poor “word choice,” but it was not reassuring:

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Siberia 10C hotter in warmest May on record: EU

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Temperatures soared 10 degrees Celsius above average last month in Siberia, home to much of Earth's permafrost, as the world experienced its hottest May on record, the European Union's climate monitoring network said Friday.

The Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) said May 2020 was 0.68C warmer than the average May from 1981 to 2010, with above average temperatures across parts of Alaska, Europe, North America, South America, swathes of Africa and Antarctica.

Globally, "the average temperature for the twelve months to May 2020 is close to 1.3C above the (pre-industrial) level", Copernicus said referring to the benchmark by which global warming is often measured.

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2020 Election

Trump stokes division in Republican Party as he rages at Sen. Lisa Murkowski

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As the Republican Party is struggling to defend him in a moment of nationwide strife, President Donald Trump decided Thursday night to fuel divisions within GOP rather than make nice.

He had already lashed out on Wednesday at his former Defense Secretary James Mattis, who sharply criticized Trump’s response to the ongoing George Floyd protests. But on Thursday night, Trump took at aim at sitting Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.

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