A new Hybrid device integrates a microfluidic chip and an optofluidic chip for optical detection of individual molecules of the ebola virus.
Scientists develop a new chip technology for reliable detection of the Ebola virus and other viral pathogens.
A team of researchers at UC Santa Cruz devised a system that uses direct optical detection of viral molecules.
The hybrid device can be integrated into a simple, portable instrument for use in field situations where rapid, accurate detection of Ebola infections is essential to prevent outbreaks.
Laboratory tests showed that the chip-based device detects Ebola virus and other hemorrhagic fever viruses with the sensitivity and specificity needed to provide practical results.
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 scientists say that 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. Because PCR works on DNA molecules and Ebola is an RNA virus, the reverse transcriptase enzyme is used to make DNA copies of the viral RNA prior to PCR amplification and detection.
"Compared to our system, PCR detection is more complex and requires a laboratory setting," said senior author Holger Schmidt, the Kapany Professor of Optoelectronics at UC Santa Cruz. "We're detecting the nucleic acids directly, and we achieve a comparable limit of detection to PCR and excellent specificity."
The system combines two small chips, a microfluidic chip for sample preparation and an optofluidic chip for optical detection.
Schmidt and his collaborators have been developing optofluidic chip technology for optical analysis of single molecules as they pass through a tiny fluid-filled channel on the chip for over a decade.
The microfluidic chip for sample processing can be integrated as a second layer next to or on top of the optofluidic chip.
Schmidt noted that the team has not yet been able to test the system starting with raw blood samples. That will require additional sample preparation steps, and it will also have to be done in a biosafety level 4 facility.
"We are now building a prototype to bring to the Texas facility so that we can start with a blood sample and do a complete front-to-back analysis," Schmidt said. "We are also working to use the same system for detecting less dangerous pathogens and do the complete analysis here at UC Santa Cruz."
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The team reported their results in a paper published September 25 in Nature Scientific Reports.