Arizona SU develops inexpensive diagnostic tool for African swine fever

Individual tests can be performed for under $1
calendar icon 17 June 2022
clock icon 2 minute read

In a new NIFA-funded study, Arizona State University researchers have advanced an innovative method for rapidly diagnosing the disease, which could revolutionise the process and help safeguard millions of animals worldwide.

Assistant Professor Chao Wang and his colleagues received funding from the US Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) program to pursue their diagnostic test dubbed NaSRED (for nanoparticle-supported rapid, electronic detection), a highly accurate means of detecting ASFV, the virus responsible for African Swine Fever.

NaSRED offers several advantages over existing methods. The test can be performed at drastically reduced cost, yielding results in minutes rather than hours or days. It can easily be carried out in the field, without recourse to the sophisticated laboratory facilities required for processing similar diagnostic tests.

Remarkably, NaSRED’s diagnostic sensitivity is estimated to exceed that of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA), the current gold standard for such tests, by more than 10 times and surpass ELISA’s dynamic range by over 100 times. (The dynamic range is the range from the lowest to the highest quantities a diagnostic test can measure.)

The basic technique has already shown impressive results, where an earlier prototype was used to pinpoint the presence of two global human pathogens, SARS-CoV-2 and Ebola.

“I came across the ASF virus and was immediately amazed by its complexity,” Wang said. “The virus particle itself is protected with multiple layers and decorated with more than 50 structural proteins, in contrast to the SARS-CoV-2 virus particle with only one single lipid bilayer and a few surface proteins."

"This makes it extremely difficult to understand how the virus works to cause the damage," Wang added. "This is also one big reason there is no effective vaccine available. Therefore, virus diagnostics for ASF are of paramount importance.”

The final sensing system, ideal for pen-side testing, will be hand-held and the cost of materials is expected to be around $20, while individual tests can be performed for under $1. Rapid testing, requiring less than a microliter of blood, will deliver results within minutes.

The technology is a particularly attractive option for testing swine in resource-limited settings and promises to dramatically enhance efforts to combat this global scourge.

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