The method can also be extended to diagnose several killer viral ailments like Covid-19, severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), HIV and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). The method helps in early stage detection, thus preventing pathogen from causing extensive damage to the body.
“One can detect viral load as small as 100 IU mL (international units per millilitre). This method is better than the gold standard RT-qPCR tests as that takes minimum of four hours,” said Dr Khaja, adding how there’re mainly two methods to detect viral load of hepatitis C — serological tests to find viral antigens using assay methods like ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) and molecular methods through RT-qPCR (reverse transcriptase quantitative polymerase chain reaction). “Our method based on gold nanoparticles is inexpensive unlike other methods available,” he added.
Dr Khaja, who heads Bioviz Technologies that funded the research project, said antiviral drugs can cure over 95% of hepatitis C virus (HCV) cases if timely treatment is given. “The new method is a rapid and cost-effective detection assay that can be used even in resource-limited settings for mass level screening,” he said. The assay exhibited 100% sensitivity and specificity with 88 samples (41 positive and 47 negative).