Open Access Original article

A virus biosensor with single virus-particle sensitivity based on fluorescent vesicle labels and equilibrium fluctuation analysis

Marta Bally1*, Moritz Graule1, Francisco Parra2, Göran Larson3 and Fredrik Höök1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Applied Physics, Division of Biological Physics, Chalmers University of Technology, Göteborg, SE-412 96, Sweden

2 Instituto Universitario de Biotecnología de Asturias, Departamento de Bioquímica y Biología Molecular Universidad de Oviedo, Oviedo, Spain

3 Department of Clinical Chemistry and Transfusion Medicine, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

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Biointerphases 2013, 8:4  doi:10.1186/1559-4106-8-4

Published: 6 February 2013


Biosensors allowing for the rapid and sensitive detection of viral pathogens in environmental or clinical samples are urgently needed to prevent disease outbreaks and spreading. We present a bioanalytical assay for the detection of whole viral particles with single virus sensitivity. Specifically, we focus on the detection of human norovirus, a highly infectious virus causing gastroenteritis. In our assay configuration, virus-like particles are captured onto a supported lipid bilayer containing a virus-specific glycolipid and detected after recognition by a glycolipid-containing fluorescent vesicle. Read-out is performed after illumination of the vesicle labels by total internal reflection fluorescence microscopy. This allows for visualization of individual vesicles and for recording of their binding kinetics under equilibrium conditions (equilibrium fluctuation analysis), as demonstrated previously. In this work we extend the concept and demonstrate that this simple assay setup can be used as a bioanalytical assay for the detection of virus particles at a limit of detection of 16 fM. Furthermore, we demonstrate how the analysis of the single vesicle-virus-like particle interaction dynamics can contribute to increase the accuracy and sensitivity of the assay by discriminating specific from non-specific binding events. This method is suggested to be generally applicable, provided that these events display different interaction kinetics.

Virus detection; Biosensor; Norovirus; Glycosphingolipids; Phospholipid vesicle; Nanoscale label; Fluorescence; Liposome; Virus-like particle