Ultrasensitive optical sensor detects viruses fast

Wednesday, 31 January, 2007


Scientists of the Biophysical Engineering Group of the University of Twente in The Netherlands have developed an ultrasensitive sensor that can be used in a handheld device to, within minutes, detect various viruses and measure their concentration.

The sensor could be used to screen people at hospitals, airports and emergency clinics to control outbreaks of diseases such as SARS and the bird flu. All it would take is a tiny sample of saliva, blood or other body fluid.

The essential innovation in the technique is the combining of an integrated optics interferometric sensor with antibody-antigen recognition approaches to yield a sensitive, rapid test for virus detection.

The technology is amenable to miniaturisation and mass production, and has significant potential to be developed into a handheld, point-of-care device.

Recently there has been a string of serious virus outbreaks such as SARS and H5N1 bird flu virus making a rapid, sensitive and easy-to-use test for viral infections essential to the prevention and control of such viral pandemics.

Furthermore, a compact, portable device is potentially very useful in remote or developing regions without easy access to sophisticated laboratory facilities.

Also, with a device such as this, minimal pre-processing of samples is required, and one could imagine having several different, interchangeable, detection modules for rapid detection. It's also possible to consider configuring the device to detect multiple analytes.

This sensor device was developed during the PhD project of Aurel Ymeti, financed by the STW Dutch Technology Foundation, in collaboration with several companies including Paradocs Group BV, bioMériex BV and LioniX BV.

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