New virus detection technique gives faster disease diagnosis

Two independent teams showed the results of their research on Thursday, detailing new techniques able to better detect viruses and obtain faster diagnoses.

The current test, called viral load, tries to gauge the severity of a viral infection by using a certain volume of blood. The current technique relies on a polymerase chain reaction, which amplifies small samples of nucleic acid and makes them easier to detect.

"The gold standard for viral load detection is PCR, due to its sensitivity and specificity," Holger Schmidt, a researcher from the University of California, said.

The new detection technique can determine an exact viral load of a sample of blood by using optics technology. The optics uses nanolense-nanoparticle technology to project a hologram of the viruses that can be recorded using a microfluidic imager chip.

"Because viruses are very small--less than 100 billionths of a meter--compared to the wavelength of light, conventional light microscopy has difficulty producing an image due to weak scattering of sub-wavelength particles," Aydogan Ozcan, a researcher from the team at UCLA, said. "The resulting image improves the field-of-view of a conventional optical microscope by two orders of magnitude."

The chip used to detect these viruses is portable and may also be used to find cancer biomarkers.