We have completed maintenance on DiscoverMagazine.com and action may be required on your account. Learn More

Shake Your Viruses

By Solana Pyne
Mar 1, 2002 6:00 AMNov 12, 2019 6:20 AM


Sign up for our email newsletter for the latest science news

Chemist Matthew Cooper and his colleagues at Cambridge University have devised a quick and efficient way to detect diseases—by sound. The researchers fashioned an acoustic virus detector from a set of metal-covered quartz-crystal disks, each about one-fifth the size of a dime, coated with compounds that stick to one particular type of virus. A drop of possibly infected fluid is placed on the disk. Any viruses in the drop bind to the surface of the disks. Then the disks are washed and exposed to electric current, which causes the quartz crystals to vibrate millions of times per second. These violent motions shake off the viral particles, which make a popping sound as they detach. The crystal acts as a microphone to detect the sound, which reveals that the viruses are present and determines the intensity of the infection. The procedure takes about an hour, far less time than other techniques for diagnosing infection.

In tests, the sound detector successfully found herpes viruses in a salt-water solution. Cooper and his team are now working to adapt it so it can diagnose HIV and hepatitis B viruses, or even bacteria, from a blood sample. Paul Parren, an immunologist at Scripps Research Institute in California, thinks this approach is very promising. "It's cheap, fast, and very specific and sensitive," he says.

1 free article left
Want More? Get unlimited access for as low as $1.99/month

Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

1 free articleSubscribe
Discover Magazine Logo
Want more?

Keep reading for as low as $1.99!


Already a subscriber?

Register or Log In

More From Discover
Recommendations From Our Store
Shop Now
Stay Curious
Our List

Sign up for our weekly science updates.

To The Magazine

Save up to 40% off the cover price when you subscribe to Discover magazine.

Copyright © 2024 Kalmbach Media Co.