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Diagnostics for viruses step closer to reality

Visit  University of Leeds website

15 February 2012

Scientists funded by BBSRC have developed a technique which could form the basis of a non-invasive diagnostic for Adenovirus - the virus responsible for a large number of common illnesses.

Micrograph of 2 Adenovirus particles. Credit: GrahamColm at en.wikipedia. Permission CC-BY-3.0

Tranmission electron micrograph of two Adenovirus particles.
Credit: GrahamColm at en.wikipedia.
Permission CC-BY-3.0

The biosensor technology developed by researchers at the University of Leeds can not only detect the presence of the virus, it can also identify the individual strain and the number of virus particles present.

The study underpinning this research is published today (15 February) in the journal Biosensors & Bioelectronics.

Currently, testing for viruses is complicated, time consuming and requires specialist preparation of samples to identify virus DNA. Using this new technique, testing for viruses could be much quicker, simpler and ultimately less costly. For patients, this sort of diagnostic would mean faster treatment.

This is a significant leap forward in testing for viruses," says Professor Paul Millner of the University's Faculty of Biological Sciences, who supervised the study. "For the first time we've been able to test for the presence of a whole virus, rather than having to seek out its genetic material, and the first time the number of virus particles has been counted using a lab-on-a-chip device. These are both exciting developments."

Adenovirus is a common virus found in vertebrates and causes many illnesses, from the common cold through to gastroenteritis. People with strong immune systems are not badly affected by the virus, but for those with a compromised or immature immune system - such as small children or HIV sufferers- it can have fatal consequences.

The new technique uses antibodies attached to an electrical sensor. By measuring the sensor's electrical changes, researchers were able to identify how many virus particles were present, and determine the type of virus dependent on its response.

"There's a long way to go before the technology might reach a doctor's surgery, but we've proven the concept," says Rebecca Caygill, the PhD student behind the study. "We now need to increase the sensitivity of the test and optimise the different stages of the process so that we can consider scaling it up for clinical trials."

The research was also funded by ELISHA Systems Ltd, the company commercialising this adenovirus biosensor and other biosensors for healthcare applications.

ENDS

Notes for editors

This study is published online by the journal Biosensors & Bioelectronics in a paper entitled: Novel impedimetric immunosensor for the detection and quantitation of adenovirus using reduced antibody fragments immobilized onto a conducting copolymer surface. The paper is available from Campus PR or the University of Leeds Press Office.

About the Faculty of Biological Sciences

The Faculty of Biological Sciences at the University of Leeds is one of the largest in the UK, with over 150 academic staff and over 400 postdoctoral fellows and postgraduate students. The Faculty is ranked 4th in the UK (Nature Journal, 457 (2009) doi :10.1038/457013a) based on results of the 2008 Research Assessment Exercise (RAE). The RAE feedback noted that "virtually all outputs were assessed as being recognized internationally, with many (60%) being internationally excellent or world-leading" in quality. The Faculty's research grant portfolio totals some £60M and funders include charities, research councils, the European Union and industry. www.fbs.leeds.ac.uk

About the University of Leeds

The University of Leeds is one of the largest higher education institutions in the UK with more than 30,000 students from 130 countries. With a turnover approaching £450m, Leeds is one of the top ten research universities in the UK, and a member of the Russell Group of research-intensive universities. It was placed 80th in the 2007 Times Higher Education world universities league table. The University's vision is to secure a place among the world's top 50 by 2015. www.leeds.ac.uk

About ELISHA Systems Ltd

ELISHA Systems Ltd. was formed in 2007 as a spin-out company from the E.U. project with the acronym ELISHA (full information and contact details are on www.immunosensors.com). It has world-wide granted IP in the area of impedance biosensing and is the process of commercialising a number of biosensor based point-of-care devices for healthcare and medical applications.

About BBSRC

BBSRC invests in world-class bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public. Our aim is to further scientific knowledge, to promote economic growth, wealth and job creation and to improve quality of life in the UK and beyond.

Funded by Government, and with an annual budget of around £445M, we support research and training in universities and strategically funded institutes. BBSRC research and the people we fund are helping society to meet major challenges, including food security, green energy and healthier, longer lives. Our investments underpin important UK economic sectors, such as farming, food, industrial biotechnology and pharmaceuticals.

For more information about BBSRC, our science and our impact see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk .
For more information about BBSRC strategically funded institutes see: www.bbsrc.ac.uk/institutes .

External contact

Jo Kelly, Campus PR, University of Leeds Press Office

tel: 01133 434031
mob: 07980 267756