FRIDAY, September 24, 2021 (HealthDay News) – A new DNA sensor can detect viruses and tell whether or not they’re infectious within minutes, according to a new study.
The sensor was developed using DNA technology and does not require preprocessing of test samples. Researchers have demonstrated this technique with human adenovirus (which causes colds and flu) and the virus that causes COVID-19.
“The infectivity status is very important information that can tell us if patients are contagious or if an environmental disinfection method is working,” said researcher Ana Peinetti, who carried out the work while she was a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC).
“We have developed these highly specific DNA molecules, called aptamers, which not only recognize viruses but can also differentiate the infectious status of the virus,” Peinetti said in an academic press release. She now heads a research group at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina.
Researcher Yi Lu, Emeritus Professor of Chemistry at UIUC, explained how current measurements of viral RNA may not be an accurate indicator of contagiousness.
“With the virus that causes COVID-19, the level of viral RNA has been shown to have minimal correlation with the infectivity of the virus. At first, when a person is infected, the viral RNA is weak and difficult. to be detected, but the person is highly contagious, âhe said in the statement.
“When a person is cured and non-infectious, the level of viral RNA can be very high. Antigen testing [commonly used for COVID] follow a similar pattern, but even later than viral RNA. Therefore, both viral RNA and antigen tests are poor at knowing whether a virus is infectious or not. This can result in delayed treatment or quarantine, or the premature release of those who may still be contagious, âLu said.
The new sensor method can produce results in 30 minutes to two hours. Because it does not require sample processing, it can be used on viruses that will not develop in the lab.
“We chose human adenovirus to demonstrate our sensor because it is an emerging waterborne viral pathogen of concern in the United States and around the world,” said researcher Benito Marinas, professor of civil engineering and environment at the UIUC.
âThe ability to detect infectious adenovirus in the presence of viruses made non-infectious by water disinfectants, and other potentially interfering background substances in wastewater and contaminated natural water, provides an unprecedented new approach. We see the potential for such technology to provide more robust protection for the environment and public health, âMarinas said.
The detection technique could be applied to other viruses, the researchers said, by modifying DNA to target different pathogens.
With the ability to distinguish non-infectious viruses from infectious viruses, the researchers hope the sensor could help understand the mechanisms of infection.
The report was published on September 22 in the newspaper Scientists progress.
The U.S. National Institute for Human Genome Research has more on viruses.
SOURCE: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, press release, September 22, 2021