Scientists Discover Quick Sensor Chip Capable of Detecting Disease Pathogens

Researchers from Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Iowa State University have created a sensor chip with 10 times the sensitivity of current approaches for detecting a wide range of disease infections.

Due to the novel chip, chemical dye reagents generally employed in the diagnostic procedure are no longer required.

The new technique has the potential to provide quick, affordable point-of-care diagnostic capabilities in plants, foods, animals, people, and humans, including the ability to identify COVID-19, avian flu, and foodborne infections, which affect approximately 48 million individuals per year. Norovirus, Salmonella, and Campylobacter are all examples of foodborne illnesses.

In roughly 30 minutes, the new sensor's results are accessible. Jinping Zhao of Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Subin Mao of Iowa State University co-led the research with their colleagues, and the findings were published in ACS Publications. The team used their novel sensor to discover Phytophthora infestans, a bacterium responsible for the destructive late blight disease and poses a risk to tomato and potato crops worldwide.

"This research advances technologies that have emerged as some of our greatest opportunities for improving agriculture, food safety and human health," says the team. "Our publication represents a step toward realizing these powerful tools against diseases."

The novel sensor enhances the commonly utilized loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) method for pathogen detection by amplifying their DNA. Fluorescence dyes must frequently be used to label LAMP products amplified from templates, such as pathogen DNA, to detect them.

It has excellent sensitivity and can identify infections without using such chemicals. Additionally, it eliminates a time-consuming DNA purification procedure that makes point-of-care usage difficult.

The new chip has a nanopore thin-film sensor explicitly designed for reaction chambers. Primers are manufactured to be immobilized on nanofilms to make increased LAMP products bind to sensors and produce signals.

Overall, they are working toward overcoming the difficulties in identifying pathogen species and strains with high sequence similarity. By combining artificial intelligence and CRISPR gene-editing technologies, they will also aim to increase the specificity of detections and produce quantitative detection.

The scientists conclude: "This label-free sensing technology holds great promise to open up a new avenue for ultrasensitive, highly specific, rapid, and cost-effective point-of-care diagnostics of plant, animal, human, and foodborne pathogens."

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