A sensitive and rapid alternative to current viral detection methods



Thousands of deaths are occurring yearly due to various viral infectious diseases, which has resulted in global public health crisis. COVID‑19 has further brought into focus, the critical need for early detection to prevent transmission, apply effective therapy, and monitor disease prognosis. Sensitive methods for viral detection such as PCR are enzyme-based methods that require cold-chain conditions and an extensive amount of time. Therefore they are not viable options for rapid detection of COVID-19 or other viral infections. Alternatively, rapid antigen detection methods are faster but lack the sensitivity to detect low levels of virus. Direct viral capture and detection in saliva or breath have been achieved previously; however, this also takes at least 48 hours. Therefore, there is a significant need to develop fast and sensitive methods that do not rely on refrigeration and are not impeded by global supply chain issues.

Technology Overview

Researchers at Northeastern have invented a novel method for direct capture and identification of viral particles on a surface. This method allows rapid detection (within 10 minutes) of the virus in exhaled breath. The method is achieved with high sensitivity, specificity and without the use of temperature-sensitive reagents (circumventing possible supply chain issues). This is a two-step procedure: In the first step, the virus is captured on a surface (glass or plastic) with affinity-based methods and in the second step, the single virus is identified with fluorescence-based methods. DNA aptamers are used to immobilize viral particles followed by single-molecule RNA fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH) that detects single molecules of RNA in individual virions. 


  • Rapid identification 
  • High sensitivity and specificity 
  • No need for enzymes 
  • Not temperature sensitive 


  • Viral disease diagnosis 
  • Research tool 


  • Research collaboration 
  • Partnering 
  • Licensing 
Patent Information:
For Information, Contact:
Vaibhav Saini
Senior Manager Commercialization
Northeastern University
Sara Rouhanifard
Diagnostic tool