Chip-based method enables reliable Ebola virus detection

Washington, Sep 25 (IANS) In a pioneering feat, a team of US researchers has developed chip-based technology for reliable detection of Ebola virus and other viral pathogens.

The system uses direct optical detection of viral molecules and can be integrated into a simple, portable instrument for use in field situations where rapid, accurate detection of Ebola infections is needed to control outbreaks.

The current gold standard for Ebola virus detection relies on a method called polymerase chain reaction (PCR) to amplify the virus’s genetic material for detection.

“Compared to our system, PCR detection is more complex and requires a laboratory setting,” said senior author Holger Schmidt, professor of optoelectronics at University of California-Santa Cruz.

“We are detecting the nucleic acids directly, and we achieve a comparable limit of detection to PCR and excellent specificity,” he explained.

Laboratory tests using preparations of Ebola virus and other hemorrhagic fever viruses showed that the system has the sensitivity and specificity needed to provide a viable detection.

The system combines two small chips, a microfluidic chip for sample preparation and an optofluidic chip for optical detection.

“We are now building a prototype to bring to the facility so that we can start with a blood sample and do a complete front-to-back analysis,” Schmidt noted.

An outbreak of Ebola virus in West Africa has killed more than 11,000 people since 2014, with new cases occurring recently in Guinea and Sierra Leone.

The team reported the results in a paper published in the journal Nature Scientific Reports.

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