By Cameron Chai
A research team led by Catherine Klapperich from the Boston University has devised a disposable microfluidic chip, which is a precise, inexpensive, rapid point-of-care device that could serve as an efficient tool for clinicians to rapidly diagnose pandemic and seasonal influenza strains, thus restricting infection outbreaks.
The chip accepts a nasal specimen, extracts influenza A RNA, converts it into DNA and replicates it to yield a sufficient sample that can be detected by an external reader. (Credit:Boston University)
The point-of-care device, which is the size of a tiny slide, is designed to be used as a replacement for current time-consuming, high-cost diagnostic tests performed in labs. The chip is basically the miniature form of the RT-PCR test used for detecting flu and delivers precise and rapid results at a lower cost.
During the experiment, the research team placed the clinical nasal samples on the chip, which converted the RNA extracted from the Influenza A virus into DNA and reproduced the sample in adequate quantities so that it can be determined by a table-top external reader. The microfluidic device generated results with an accuracy equivalent to that of the lab-based diagnostic tests.
The Microfluidic device also demonstrated more efficiency than other widely utilized flu diagnostic tests, such as viral culture, rapid immunoassays and direct fluorescent antigen testing (DFA). Klapperich explained that the novel chip demonstrates a better turn-around time than viral culture, better sensitivity than rapid immunoassay tests, and is portable and user-friendly over RT-PCR and DFA.
The research team’s next step is to reduce the cost of the microfluidic device and make it to generate results more quickly so that clinicians may use the device to detect major flu viruses. Moreover, the team is seeking ways to design an inexpensive external reader with a size similar to a clinical digital thermometer.