A new biosensor with improved sensitivity can rapidly detect influenza viruses and may potentially help health professionals more accurately diagnose Influenza A.
The biosensor, created by A*STAR researchers, may diagnose viral infections reliably and rapidly at the point of care. This characteristic makes the biosensor extremely useful when health workers are fighting future pandemics. Influenza has three strains -- A, B and C -- but A has the most potential for pandemics.
Many times, influenza results in nothing more than a few days of rest, but some strains of influenza can cause death. In the United States, 2 percent of deaths in 2010 were related to influenza.
The sensors use specialized sound waves called surface acoustic waves (SAWs) to detect a small number of Influenza A virus antigens. The researchers used silicon oxide to coat lithium niobate, a piezoelectric material. The team then created a bioactive surface by immobilizing influenza A antibodies within the sensor.
"Of the two conventional methods for detecting Influenza A, one is nonquantitative, not specific enough, and often unreliable and inconclusive, whereas the other is time-consuming, expensive and requires trained professionals," Kui Yao, of the A*STAR Institute of Materials Research and Engineering in Singapore, said. "These results indicate the potential of using SAW sensors to detect libraries of pathogens and to further act as a cost-effective platform for rapid clinical diagnosis. Our SAW sensors have a high sensitivity and are quantitative, low cost and easy enough to be potentially used at clinics."