UGA Logo Until now, flu outbreaks have been diagnosed by speedy trials with more errors or accurate but time consuming tests. Apparently, this condition is soon to be replaced by a new detection technique put forth by University of Georgia researchers. This method involves coating gold nanoparticles with antibodies that hook up to specific strains of the flu virus. The scattered light is then measured that tends to spot influenza virus in few minutes and at a very low cost too.

The analysts associated antibodies with gold nanoparticles. The structure of the particle thus formed is complex and integrates with any virus present in the specimen. It then utilizes a device for measuring the scattered light, which seemingly recognizes the virus easily.

“We’ve known for a long time that you can use antibodies to capture viruses and that nanoparticles have different traits based on their size. What we’ve done is combine the two to create a diagnostic test that is rapid and highly sensitive,” remarked research co-author Ralph Tripp, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Vaccine Development in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine.

Co-author Driskell revealed that gold nanoparticles, which are as minute as one tenth of the breadth of human hair, scatter light with great efficacy. Contrarily, micro-organisms like viruses are presumably poor in scattering light. As the virus groups with the nanoparticles, the scattered light undergoes alterations that are known and measurable. He added that the technology is rather quick that requires just placing the sample on the device and tapping a button.

Considering that gold is an expensive metal, the instrument utilizes just a fraction of it that may cost a meager amount for each test. Scientists disclose that the technology can be used at the point-of-care too. Other techniques like polymerase chain reaction take about one week to show results and are also very costly. Alternatively, another methodology known as lateral flow assay seems to be cost effective and can be used at point of care. However, it is not capable of identifying the specific viral strain. It also seems to be error prone.

The investigators feel that gold nanoparticles can be used for early diagnosis of flu that may cause physicians to start their medication like Tamiflu at the right time. However, the research doesn’t stop here. The team is heading towards detecting how laser scatters viral DNA or RNA. They believe that this technique could be used by poultry producers to identify proportions of salmonella in bath water. Just replacing the anti-influenza antibody by another pathogen ought to bring the desired result.

The research is published in the August edition of the journal Analyst.