Boston University researchers have created a quarter-sized biosensor which can easily detect a wide variety of viruses in a matter of seconds.
Wide-spread pandemic viruses have caused the deaths of millions over the course of human history, in large part because of our inability to properly detect and quarantine those who have symptoms.
Add to this the fact that many symptoms are broad-spectrum and apply to more than one disease, and finding a reliable method for early detection of specific illnesses becomes problematic.
Currently, methods for virus detection include enzymatic amplification or fluorescent tagging, both of which require some time before the results can be read. For viruses such as Ebola or Marburg, both of which can be used as elements in biological weapons, the need for immediate and reliable detection is key.
The Boston Universityteam has now created a detection system which uses plasmonic nanohole arrays each with diameters of 200 to 350 nanometers, placed on metallic films. These nanoholes transit light more strongly at certain wavelengths, and when a biological sample tainted with a virus comes in close proximity to them, there is a detectable shift in the resonance frequency of the transmitted light. The larger the shift, the more of the virus is present.
This method, proven effective in laboratory tests, is an immediate way to test an infectious disease, and while the device can currently detect only one virus type at a time, researchers are optimistic that the technology will have the ability to broaden as it is refined.
Currently, the team is developing a portable version of the detection platform that will see potential use in airports and other travel facilities to lower the possibility of an epidemic or the influx of biological weapons.
We detect the sweet smell of potential scientific success.