A ‘quantum’ step towards on-the-spot Hendra virus detection.
CSIRO scientists, in collaboration with researchers at the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, have developed a new method which could pave the way for a portable Hendra virus biosensor.
In a paper published in the journal of Advanced Healthcare Materials, CSIRO scientists detail the outcome of the study designed to find a faster, simpler way to detect the virus.
"The early detection of viruses, such as the Hendra virus, will greatly enhance the success rate of any biosecurity counter measure,"
Dr Paolo Falcaro, CSIRO Research Scientist and leader of the joint research team, said.
Hendra virus was discovered in 1994 following an outbreak of illness in a large racing stable in the Brisbane suburb of Hendra.
Current detection methods are mainly lab-based and require samples to be shipped to state or national testing labs. CSIRO's tests have shown that this new method can deliver a positive or negative test result, under lab conditions, within 30 minutes. The hope is this can be reduced to ten minutes in the future, making portable detection a reality.
The team tested three new detection methods and found that by using quantum dots - to increase the sensitivity of current analytics methods (assays) - they were able to simplify the detection process to the point where the creation of a portable sensor is now possible.
The method uses a similar principle as a current lab technology, known as Luminex, but the combination of quantum dots and magnetic nano-particles allows the same process to be carried out on a much smaller scale.
"The early detection of viruses, such as the Hendra virus, will greatly enhance the success rate of any biosecurity counter measure," Dr Paolo Falcaro, CSIRO Research Scientist and leader of the joint research team, said.
"Further optimisation of the system is required, but this study is a proof-of-concept of the possibility to implement this method in a portable Hendra virus sensor that could be used at the point of care. The most exciting aspect to this technology is it could be used to detect any other virus by simply targeting the virus with the corresponding antibody."
Quantum dots and magnetic particles were chosen to simplify the reaction required to detect the virus. The biosensor works by targeting the Hendra virus and its antibody. If there is a match, the sensor delivers a positive result.
Professor Paul Mulvaney, of the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne, said: "This is the first application of these fluorescent nanocrystals developed at the University of Melbourne for virus detection and an important example of how the University of Melbourne-CSIRO partnership can help us focus basic science onto important health challenges. Getting this test into a microfluidics platform will enable us to develop a generic approach to pathogen detection in the field."
Read more media releases in our Media section.
The world’s most biosecure containment facility – CSIRO’s Australian Animal Health Laboratory – was essential for generating the Hendra virus material used, as all live work with this deadly virus must be undertaken at the highest level of biosecurity.
Transcript (video and audio)
Dr Paolo Falcaro: This method can be potentially used in a micro-fluidic device for instance. And ideally, collecting the saliva of an infected animal we can just inject the saliva within the device and within a few minutes we can double check if you have a bright spot due to the quantum dots. If we have a bright spot this means the test is positive and you detect the Hendra virus.
The speed of detection is what we consider one of the advantages of this test as we can perform test for the virus within thirty minutes at the moment. We hope that we can decrease this time to ten minutes.
Quantum dots are a kind of luminescent label that graft onto the virus and then if you excite the quantum dots, and you have a bright spot, it means that you are infected with the Hendra virus.
The third step of this project will probably be the fabrication of a device. We think that we can potentially fabricate a device within three years time.