Rapid detection of developed viruses and lipid-coated nanoparticles

Traditional approaches for virus detection and quantification, such as cell culture and antigen-based tests, are often limited by long waiting times or limited sensitivity and specificity.

Enhancing rapid detection of viruses

Oxford University researchers have invented a novel approach for labelling lipid-coated nanoparticles, such as enveloped viruses, exosomes or synthetic lipid vesicles. This method uses calcium ions to mediate an interaction between the surface of the lipid particle and DNA. The DNA can be modified with fluorophores for rapid optical detection of the particles or can include a functionalised group for particle pull-down using affinity purification.

Using enveloped viruses as an example, the researchers used calcium-mediated labelling combined with single-particle tracking to rapidly and sensitively detect and quantify virus particles. Fluorescently labelling viruses using this method has resulted in very bright virus particles, seen using light microscopy. The inventors have successfully combined the labelling technique with a downstream assay for detecting specific virus strains. These methods have been proven effective on several types of enveloped viruses, including both influenza A and B subtypes, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and baculovirus.

The inventors have used this approach to detect clinical isolates of influenza, which could be directly detected within just 1 minute, making the assay significantly faster than currently available antigen-based tests. The method is simple, efficient, reversible and rapid, and represents a powerful technique with applications in viral diagnosis, vaccine production and research. The technique does not require bespoke equipment and allows direct detection of virus particles, thereby requiring only a small sample volume and no amplification or purification steps.

The inventors have also shown that is possible to label small synthetic lipid particles in a similar manner. The method is therefore general and can be used with a wide variety of viruses, particles, and modifying groups. The inventors are currently working on ways to combine the calcium-labelling approach with specific labelling using fluorescently-labelled genome probes.

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