Researchers have developed a miniaturized device which can detect the highly pathogenic avian flu (H5N1) virus in throat swab samples, with results released within half an hour.
The device comprises a unique platform that uses magnetic force to manipulate individual droplets containing silica-coated magnetic particles.
“The novelty of our method lies in the way that the droplet itself becomes a pump, valve, mixer, solid-phase extractor and real-time thermocycler. Complex biochemical tasks can thus be processed in a fashion similar to that of a traditional biological laboratory on a miniature scale,” explained Dr Pipper.
The all-in-one droplet-based device is superior to commercially available solutions as it integrates the entire workflow of viral RNA isolation, purification, preconcentration, and detection.
Tests have shown that IBN’s platform is as sensitive as, and around 10 times faster than available tests, yet it could potentially be 40 to 100 times cheaper.
The researchers say that the lab-on-a-chip system may be deployed to affected regions for pre-emptive surveillance of nascent avian flu epidemic, and may can also be adapted for other infectious diseases such as SARS, HIV and hepatitis B, by extracting nucleic acids from other body fluids such as blood, urine or saliva.