Research Highlight

New technique to detect viral RNA

doi:10.1038/nindia.2013.89 Published online 8 July 2013

Researchers have developed a new rapid technique that is capable of detecting minute traces of viral RNA . It will be very useful for diagnosing various viral diseases.

Diagnosis is a crucial step in the molecular surveillance of viral diseases. A rapid visual test with a high specificity could play a vital role in the management of such diseases. However, there are currently no such tests that can assist with rapidly diagnosing viral diseases.

To develop a new rapid technique for detecting viral diseases, the researchers designed a novel method using gold nanoparticles and an artificially synthesized polymer similar to RNA, known as peptide nucleic acid (PNA).

They tested the efficacy of this technique using various biological samples and found that the technique could detect 5–10 nanograms of viral RNA in these samples. The developed technique was more sensitive than an existing technique, known as the hemagglutination test, which is a routine test for detecting the Newcastle disease virus, a highly contagious disease of birds. The new technique could be used to visually detect traces of the Newcastle disease virus.

In terms of specificity, the new technique could discriminate single-nucleotide differences in the target RNA. The researchers expect that this technique will find applications in the diagnosis of other RNA viruses, which are well known to undergo mutations, thus presenting challenges for their molecular surveillance, genotyping and quantification.


  1. Joshi, V. G. et al. Rapid label-free visual assay for the detection and quantification of viral RNA using peptide nucleic acid (PNA) and gold nanoparticles (AuNPs). Anal. Chim. Acta. (2013) doi: 10.1016/j.aca.2013.06.037