Scientists at The University of Texas at Austin have developed a new method to rapidly detect a single virus in urine, as reported this week in the journalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Although the technique presently works on just one virus, scientists say it could be adapted to detect a range of viruses that plague humans including Ebola, Zika and HIV.
“The ultimate goal is to build a cheap, easy-to-use device to take into the field and measure the presence of a virus like Ebola in people on the spot,” says Jeffrey Dick, a chemistry graduate student and co-lead author of the study. “While we are still pretty far from this, this work is a leap in the right direction.”
The other co-lead author is Adam Hilterbrand, a microbiology graduate student.
The new method is highly specific, meaning it is only sensitive to one type of virus, filtering out possible false negatives caused by other viruses or contaminants.
There are two other commonly used methods for detecting viruses in biological samples, but they have drawbacks. One requires a much higher concentration of viruses, and the other requires samples to be purified to remove contaminants. The new method, however, can be used with urine straight from a person or animal.