Viruses are of high medical and biodefense concern and their detection at concentrations well below the threshold necessary to cause health hazards continues to be a challenge with respect to sensitivity, specificity, and selectivity. Ideally, assays for accurate and real time detection of viral agents would not necessitate any pre-processing of the analyte, which would make them applicable for example to bodily fluids (blood, sputum) and man-made as well as naturally occurring bodies of water (pools, rivers). We describe herein a robust biosensor that combines the sensitivity of surface acoustic waves (SAW) generated at a frequency of 325 MHz with the specificity provided by antibodies for the detection of viral agents. A lithium tantalate-based SAW transducer with silicon dioxide waveguide sensor platform featuring three test and one reference delay lines was used to adsorb antibodies directed against either Coxsackie virus B4 or the category A bioagent Sin Nombre virus (SNV), a member of the genus Hantavirus, family Bunyaviridae, negative-stranded RNA viruses. Rapid detection (within seconds) of increasing concentrations of viral particles was linear over a range of order of magnitude for both viruses, although the sensor was approximately 5 × 105-fold more sensitive for the detection of SNV. For both pathogens, the sensor's selectivity for its target was not compromised by the presence of confounding Herpes Simplex virus type 1. The biosensor was able to detect SNV at doses lower than the load of virus typically found in a human patient suffering from hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS). Further, in a proof-of-principle real world application, the SAW biosensor was capable to selectively detect SNV agents in complex solutions, such as naturally occurring bodies of water (river, sewage effluent) without analyte pre-processing. This is the first study that reports on the detection of viral agents using an antibody-based SAW biosensor that has the potential to be used as a hand-held and self-contained device for rapid viral detection in the field. © 2007 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
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