New diagnostic kit distinguishes between dengue & chikungunya virus.

a new diagnostic kit can distinguish dengue from chikungunya virus faster. Developed by the Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, the kit helps in distinguishing between the two viruses within two to three days of symptoms showing up. Symptoms of the two diseases are more or less similar and regular tests take at least a week to detect. The test was conducted only in chikungunya-affected districts in Kerala. The scientists tested 120 samples, of which 65 per cent tested positive for chikungunya. The samples were taken within three days of the emergence of symptoms.

The centre, however, is providing the service voluntarily so far and has no plans to commercialize the kit because scientists say the method of conducting the test is "sensitive'. "We shall conduct tests only when there are chances of outbreak. Chances of contamination are very high. There aren't too many professionals trained to use our method,' says E Sreekumar, a scientist at the centre.

Experts at the Division of Virology, Defence Research and Development Establishment (drde), Jhansi, doubt its efficacy. "The polymerase chain reaction (pcr) method, used to detect the virus, needs multiple samples. There are chances that the method can miss out on borderline cases and dual cases of dengue and chikungunya,' says Manmohan Parida, scientist with drde. In the pcr method, the genetic material is amplified and tests are carried out to find whether the genetic material belongs to chikungunya or dengue virus. drde has developed its own diagnostic kit which it says is better. The complex method will be restricted to the laboratory, says Parida.