Yeast dust makes a cheap and fast virus test


June 26, 2023

(Nanowerk News) Researchers from The University of Queensland have created a dust from baker’s yeast that can detect COVID-19 and could protect society from future pandemics.

Powdered ‘nanoprobes’ developed at Australian Institute for Bioengineering and Nanotechnology (AIBN) UQ are synthetic yeast fragments that can be used in environments such as airports, hospitals, stadiums and sewers to detect COVID-19 biomarkers.

The nanoprobe technology is fully explained at Natural Nanotechnology (“A universal reagent for the detection of emerging diseases using bioengineered multifunctional yeast nanofragments”).

Lead researcher and director of AIBN’s Center for Personalized Nanomedicine Professor Matt Trau said yeast nanoprobes could also be integrated into current COVID-19 testing platforms.

“Yeast has long been a cheap and abundant ingredient in bread and beer and thanks to its unique chemical properties it can now be used in diagnostic technologies that rival PCR testing for speed and sensitivity,” said Professor Trau.

“We often refer to yeast as biofactories because they are the oldest industrial microorganisms.

“In this case, we are using a historically inexpensive and highly scalable food production system to create sensor powders that can be used in the environment to detect various viral threats.”

Fluorescent, electrochemical or dye-based analytical techniques are used to check the nanoprobes to see if they have been exposed to a virus.

AIBN research fellow Dr Selvakumar Edwardraja said the yeast sensor technology can be genetically programmed to detect certain strains of viruses, such as the COVID-19 variants Delta and Omicron, and give the health system an earlier head on new and emerging viral threats that jump from animals to humans. . .

“The constant mutation of COVID-19 means that it is no longer enough to test whether someone has been infected,” said Dr Edwardraja.

“We now need to be able to quickly identify which variant a patient has, where it comes from, and what needs to be done to treat it.”

Study co-author Dr Chris Howard said the cost-effective and easily scalable nature of the yeast nanoprobe meant the technology was an accessible tool for pandemic defense systems.

“If we are to block new and more severe variants from surviving, we need diagnostic tools that are fast to manufacture and distribute and can be adapted for multiple on-site testing processes,” said Dr Howard.

“At the very low cost of yeast, this technology could be important for low-resource areas of the world that cannot afford today’s expensive diagnostic tests.”


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