(RxWiki News) Testing for viruses and bacteria used to require expensive equipment. Soon, people may be able to spot diseases and unsafe foods from the comfort of their home.
A device used by diabetes patients to check blood sugar levels could be turned into a DNA monitor that allows people to do home tests for viruses and bacteria in human body fluids, foods, and other materials.
"Ask your doctor about DNA tests for viruses and bacteria."
Yi Lu, Ph.D., and Yu Xiang, authors of the research from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, believe that one of the biggest challenges in chemistry is to make cheap tests for the public to use to diagnose diseases early or to check the safety of food.
At the moment, there are a number of useful DNA detection methods for spotting disease and unsafe foods . However, the public does not have access to these methods, as they usually require heavy laboratory equipment that takes skill to use, the authors explain.
"While traditional methods for DNA detection such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) and DNA microarrays have been well developed, they require sophisticated equipment and operations, and thus it is still challenging to develop a portable and quantitative DNA detection method for the public use at home or in the field," they write.
In their most recent research, Dr. Lu and Xiang converted a glucose meter (used by diabetes patients to check blood sugar) into a device that could monitor DNA.
This device could become a cheap and easy way to perform tests for viruses and bacteria at home.
In their article, the authors report on the "application of personal glucose meters (PGMs), which are widely available, low cost, and simple to use, for quantitative detection of DNA, including a hepatitis B virus DNA fragment."
These DNA tests take place in a fluid containing sucrose, a type of sugar that is not recognized by glucose meters.
The first step of the test involves capturing a part of bacterial or viral DNA and collecting it on beads. Next, the scientists add a protein that is attached to a different DNA. This second DNA can bind to the bacterial or viral DNA.
The protein that was added is called invertase, an enzyme that can change sucrose into glucose, allowing the glucose meter to detect infectious substances.
Dr. Lu and Xiang were able to spot a fragment of hepatitis B virus DNA during their study. They spotted this DNA fragment at concentrations similar to or even better than other currently used methods for DNA measurement.
The report on the new test is published in the journal Analytical Chemistry.