Boston: Scientists have developed are volutionary paper-based sensor system for detecting the Zika virus within an hour, an advance that could help fight the disease that has been linked to serious birth defects.
Employing toehold sensors and isothermal RNA amplification, researchers, including those from Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in US created diagnostic sensors on a freeze-dried piece of paper the size of a stamp.
Activated by the amplified sample, the diagnostic sensors programmed into this paper provide extremely sensitive, low-cost, programmable diagnostics that provide rapid results.
Currently, reliable diagnosis for patients suspected of the Zika virus involves nucleic acid-based testing, which is dependent on laboratory access, highly specific and expensive equipment, and trained technicians.
As a result, this type of testing is unsuitable and unavailable in remote locations where surveillance and containment are critically needed.
This new technology, on the other hand, is easy to use and requires little to no training. Specifically tuned to the Zika virus, sensors are applied to small paper samples.
Using a small saliva, urine, or blood sample, equivalent to the amount required by blood glucose monitors to test blood sugar levels, the sample is applied to the sensors, triggering a response that provides visually evident results in as little
as an hour.
If the sample contains the RNA of the Zika virus, the test area turns purple.
In making such a simple to use test, the team has created a exciting tool that promises to bring portable, reliable, and inexpensive Zika diagnostics to the field at less than a dollar per test.
Moreover, it does not require a lab, expensive equipment, or highly-trained technicians to administer.
"The diagnostic platform developed by our team has provided a high-performing, low-cost tool that can work in remote locations," said lead author Keith Pardee, assistant professor from University of Toronto.
"We have developed a workflow that combines molecular tools to provide diagnostics that can be read out on a piece of paper no larger than a postage stamp," said Pardee.
"Our synthetic biology pipeline for rapid sensor design and prototyping has tremendous potential for application for the Zika virus and other public health threats, enabling us to rapidly develop new diagnostics when and where they are needed most," he said.
The study was published in the journal Cell.