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Chembio Diagnostics to sell rapid tests for Zika, other viruses in Brazil

The tests were developed with a Brazilian government agency that the Medford company has collaborated with for 14 years.

Medford-based Chembio Diagnostics.

Medford-based Chembio Diagnostics. Photo Credit: Heather Walsh

Chembio Diagnostics Inc. plans to sell rapid tests for Zika and other viruses in Brazil, executives said Thursday. The company developed the tests with a government agency there.

The Medford-based manufacturer of diagnostic tests for HIV, syphilis and fever illnesses said it has signed a long-term agreement with Bio-Manguinhos in Brazil to commercialize the tests for Zika, dengue and chikungunya in the country.

Bio-Manguinhos is a division of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, an agency that develops and produces tests, vaccines and medicine for Brazil’s national health system. It has worked with Chembio for 14 years.

Since 2016, Chembio and Bio-Manguinhos have been working on stand-alone tests for Zika, dengue and chikungunya and tests where more than one illness can be detected. The products have undergone clinical trials and some have won governmental approvals in Brazil, the United States and Europe.

Separately in November, Chembio announced that it had signed a contract valued at up to $4.9 million with UNICEF to provide the Zika test and a companion results reader for use primarily in Africa. 

Since 2015 there have been Zika outbreaks in more than 80 countries, including in the United States. The virus takes its name from the Ugandan forest where it was first identified in 1947.

Zika causes the birth defect microcephaly, in which infants have smaller-than-normal heads.

“Despite improved prevention measures to combat the viruses, the risk of incipient epidemic remains in many parts of Brazil,” Chembio CEO John J. Sperzel said Thursday. The company’s tests “can become important tools to discriminate among the viruses and identify co-infected patients, as we battle these debilitating and often life-threatening viruses,” he said.

Chembio reported a loss of $6.4 million on sales of $24 million in 2017.

Chembio shares rose 35 cents Thursday, or 4 percent, to close at $9.10 on Thursday on the NASDAQ stock maket.


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