Speeding Up Virus Detection At Scale

Instead of detecting specific viral sequences, this universal virus detection platform looks for double stranded RNA.

AsianScientist (Jul. 16, 2020) – Researchers at KAIST have developed a new way of detecting viruses using reactive polymer-grafted surfaces. Their findings, published in Biomacromolecules, could be developed into a pre-screening tool that can detect a wide range of viruses with high sensitivity.

Currently, the most widely used viral detection methodology is polymerase chain reaction diagnosis, which amplifies and detects a piece of the viral genome. Designing specific primers that can amplify viral nucleic acids requires prior knowledge of the virus sequence.

In contrast, the new method identifies viral activities without amplifying specific nucleic acid targets. Instead, the team co-led by Professors Li Sheng and Kim Yoosik, constructed a universal virus detection platform by utilizing the distinct features of surfaces coated with reactive polypentafluorophenyl acrylate or PPFPA.

They first grafted PPFPA onto a silicon substrate, modifying its affinity to water by partially substituting the pentafluorophenyl units with polyethlyene glycol. The PPFPA-grafted surface was then used to immobilize antibodies against double stranded RNAs (dsRNA), which are common byproducts of viral transcription and replication.

To increase the sensitivity of dsRNA detection, the researchers devised a two-step detection process analogous to the sandwich enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay where the bound double-stranded RNAs are then visualized using fluorophore-tagged antibodies that also recognize the RNAs’ double-stranded secondary structure. Using their tool, the team was able to detect elevated levels of hepatitis C and A viruses from infected cells.

“We showed that the developed platform can differentiate foreign long dsRNAs from cellular dsRNAs and other biomolecules present in the cell lysate,” said Kim. “This can be used to develop a universal virus detection platform that can provide fast and accurate diagnoses for an infected population and prevent the influx of massive outbreaks”

“By targeting a common biomarker—viral double-stranded RNAs—we can develop a pre-screening platform that can quickly differentiate infected populations from non-infected ones,” added Li.

The article can be found at: Ku et al. (2020) Reactive Polymer Targeting dsRNA as Universal Virus Detection Platform with Enhanced Sensitivity.


Source: Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology; Photo: National Cancer Institute/Unsplash.
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