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University of Georgia (UGA) researchers use gold nanoparticles to diagnose flu in minutes

UGA researchers’ technology uses gold nanoparticles coated with antibodies that bind to the flu strains

Story content courtesy of The University of Georgia Public Affairs

Gold is often thought of as a costly metal, but the new diagnostic test uses such a small amount—less than what would fit on the head of the pin—that the cost is one-hundredth of a cent per test.

“We’ve known for a long time that you can use antibodies to capture viruses and that nanoparticles have different traits based on their size,” said study co-author Ralph Tripp, Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar in Vaccine Development in the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine. “What we’ve done is combine the two to create a diagnostic test that is rapid and highly sensitive.”

Working in the UGA Nanoscale Science and Engineering Center, Tripp and co-author Jeremy Driskell linked immune system proteins known as antibodies with gold nanoparticles. The gold nanoparticle-antibody complex aggregates with any virus present in a sample, and a commercially available device measures the intensity with which the solution scatters light.

By overcoming the weaknesses of existing diagnostic tests, the researchers hope to enable more timely diagnoses that can help halt the spread of flu by accurately identifying infections and allowing physicians to begin treatment early, when antiviral drugs are most effective.

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