Researchers at SMK Diagnostics, the Purdue University startup, have developed a biosensor that can quickly identify mosquito-borne diseases prior to the transmission of the viruses to humans.
The sensor has been designed to detect and monitor viruses such as Zika and dengue, but cannot be used for bacteria-based diseases, including malaria.
The technology involves an electrode that can immobilise certain biological molecules which bind to the virus RNA. This binding of DNA or RNA of a virus-infected mosquito to the electrode changes its surface resistance, enabling the determination of the presence of a virus.
While existing approaches to detect mosquito-borne diseases are time-consuming and require one week or more to identify the type of virus, the new sensor is said to possess the capability to differentiate specific flaviviruses within one hour.
Purdue University Materials Engineering associate head and professor Lia Stanciu said: “The sensor provides early detection so you can intervene earlier. Only the virus will bind to the surface, no other molecules. It is recognition, like a key and lock.”
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The researchers hope to use the biosensor technology in regions populated with disease-carrying mosquitoes in order to help local agencies in identifying the danger and enable them to take preventive measures.
Stanciu added: “That way local agencies know there is a danger so they can take action to eradicate the virus before it spreads to people.”
Purdue Office of Technology Commercialisation aided SMK Diagnostics in obtaining a patent for the technology. The startup is now working towards securing funding to develop a prototype of the sensor.