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Analytical Chemistry

Nanotube array snags viruses

Device enriches and concentrates viruses from field samples, helping with surveillance for emerging infectious disease outbreaks

by Bethany Halford
October 10, 2016 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 94, Issue 40

Credit: Sci. Adv.
N-MWCNTs snag viruses and let other particles pass.
A schematic showing aligned nanotubes ensnaring virus particles.
Credit: Sci. Adv.
N-MWCNTs snag viruses and let other particles pass.

To keep one step ahead of deadly viral outbreaks, scientists track known viruses and identify emerging viruses that haven’t been seen before. But this type of surveillance can falter when field samples contain only small amounts of a virus and modern analytical techniques fail to detect it, so the threat goes unnoticed. Scientists at Pennsylvania State University, led by Siyang Zheng and Mauricio Terrones, report a device that can enrich viruses in field samples, thanks to an array of aligned, nitrogen-doped multiwalled carbon nanotubes, or N-MWCNTs (Sci. Adv. 2016, DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1601026). The nanotube array acts as a filter for a solution of the prepared sample, allowing nontarget material to flow through while trapping virus particles and concentrating them by at least 100 times. Then the virus can be identified with next-generation sequencing. With the device, the researchers identified an emerging avian influenza virus strain as well as a novel virus strain found in turkeys. Because neither the device nor the sequencing identification method requires any knowledge of the virus within the field sample, the researchers believe the combination represents a powerful approach to discovering viruses and could help scientists get the upper hand on viral infectious diseases before they run rampant.

This video describes how a device equipped with a nitrogen-doped multiwalled carbon nanotube array concentrates virus particles for easy identification.
Credit: Pennsylvania State University


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