Quick identification of avian influenza infection in poultry is critical to controlling outbreaks, but current detection methods can require several days to produce results.
Now, however, a biosensor developed at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) can detect avian influenza in just minutes. In addition to being a rapid test, the biosensor is economical, field-deployable, sensitive to different viral strains and requires no labels or reagents.
The biosensor itself is coated with antibodies specifically designed to capture a protein located on the surface of the virus. An interferometer is then used to precisely determine how many virus particles attach to the surface.
‘We can do real-time monitoring of avian influenza infections on the farm, in live-bird markets or in poultry processing facilities,’ said Jie Xu, a research scientist in GTRI’s Electro-Optical Systems Laboratory (EOSL).
To test the biosensor, the researchers assessed its ability to detect two avian influenza strains that previously infected poultry (H7N2 and H7N3). The results showed that a solution containing very few virus particles could be detected by the sensor.
Aside from the sensor, the only additional external components required for field-testing include a sample-delivery device, such as a peristaltic pump, a laptop computer for data collection and a swab taken from a potentially infected bird.
Xu is currently working to reduce the size of the prototype device to about the size of a lunchbox and making the computer analysis software more user-friendly so that it can be field-tested in two years.
The work was funded by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and the Georgia Research Alliance.