Today, Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc. announced plans to release a genetic assay designed to test for the presence of the Zika virus. A genetic test is capable of identifying the presence of a virus prior to the development of antibodies, so it can be an earlier indicator of infection. Declared a Global Health Emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO) as of February 1st, the current Zika outbreak is characterized by explosive growth across South and Central America, the Caribbean, and the United States. The virus—which is primarily mosquito-borne and may also be sexually transmitted—is potentially dangerous to pregnant women, as it is believed to cause severe birth defects, including microcephaly. The virus has also been associated with an increase in Guillain-Barré syndrome, an autoimmune disorder characterized by muscle weakness and partial paralysis. There is presently no known cure for Zika, but a genetic test can aid in research efforts that will ultimately allow healthcare professionals to develop more effective management and treatment options. Rapid diagnosis can also aid public health efforts to help control the spread of the disease.
“Every day, we learn more about the virus and its transmission. While the world waits on a preventative vaccine and ultimately a cure for Zika, Siemens is helping healthcare professionals to quickly test for the presence of the virus,” says Fernando Beils, Head of Siemens Healthcare, Molecular Diagnostics. “We hope the Siemens Healthcare assay will help researchers identify the Zika virus, assist in the development of a vaccine, and ultimately help find a cure. Our aim is to help researchers fight the Zika outbreak in any way we can.”
The assay is available for research use only (RUO) and is designed to run on the Siemens VERSANT® kPCR Molecular System. Additionally, the test has been developed so that it can run on other commercially available PCR systems. Siemens pursued the RUO approach to speed availability of the assay for critical research. In addition, the company intends to develop an IVD assay for Zika as soon as possible.
“We’ve developed the VERSANT kPCR Zika 1.0 assay in record time,” says David Stein, Head of Siemens Healthcare, Strategy & Innovation. “This exemplifies our strategy of enabling healthcare providers worldwide to address the public health needs of the global community, and we believe that our latest contribution can assist in managing the Zika virus.”
About Siemens AG
Siemens AG (Berlin and Munich) is a global technology powerhouse that has stood for engineering excellence, innovation, quality, reliability and internationality for more than 165 years. The company is active in more than 200 countries, focusing on the areas of electrification, automation and digitalization. One of the world’s largest producers of energy-efficient, resource-saving technologies, Siemens is No. 1 in offshore wind turbine construction, a leading supplier of gas and steam turbines for power generation, a major provider of power transmission solutions and a pioneer in infrastructure solutions as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry. The company is also a leading provider of medical imaging equipment – such as computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging systems – and a leader in laboratory diagnostics as well as clinical IT. In fiscal 2015, which ended on September 30, 2015, Siemens generated revenue of €75.6 billion and net income of €7.4 billion. At the end of September 2015, the company had around 348,000 employees worldwide. Further information is available on the Internet at www.siemens.com.