A portable optical measurement device has been developed to accurately identify the presence of Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD). The prototype device was engineered by Stratophase, a specialist in real-time chemical and biochemical measurement, as part of a project called Portable Direct Immunoassay Diagnosis Devices for Animals and Humans (PDIDDAH). The £1 million project, co-funded by the UK government-sponsored Technology Strategy Board, was performed in collaboration with the Institute of Biotechnology (University of Cambridge), Bristol Industrial and Research Associates Limited and the Chelsea Technologies Group.
The portable FMD detection unit uses Stratophase's optical microchip technology, which measures changes in refractive index (RI) at the surface of an optical chip. When testing the prototype in a laboratory environment, the unit was able to detect FMD quickly, easily and with a high degree of accuracy. If further developed, such a device would allow veterinary professionals, inspectors and farmers to make rapid, informed decisions at the site of infection during disease outbreaks, avoiding the need to cull of healthy livestock.
During analysis, the sample is mixed with a liquid and pumped across the chip surface, where any FMD viral particles present bind to specific receptor molecules, altering the local RI and leading to positive detection. The chips themselves are incorporated into low cost, disposable cartridges, which are inserted into the detection unit during testing. The research carried out as part of the PDIDDAH project has successfully shown that the platform has the potential to provide a robust, rapid, accurate, easy-to-use solution for the on-site detection of FMD.
On completion of the project, Richard Williams, Stratophase’s chief executive, said: 'We are delighted with the results of the PDIDDAH collaboration and believe it provides the perfect basis for further developing our bio-detection technology. As well as a clear application in veterinary diagnostics, our optical microchips can be configured to detect a whole range of biological agents, making them ideal for on-site testing in environments as diverse as battlefields, hospitals and farms.'
The company expects to commercialise its portable detection solution for veterinary diagnostics in the future through collaboration with strategic partners already active in the field.