Low-cost detection of norovirus using paper-based cell-free systems and synbody-based viral enrichment

Synth Biol (Oxf). 2018;3(1):ysy018. doi: 10.1093/synbio/ysy018. Epub 2018 Sep 19.


Noroviruses are a primary cause of gastroenteritis and foodborne illness with cases that affect millions of people worldwide each year. Inexpensive tests for norovirus that do not require sophisticated laboratory equipment are important tools for ensuring that patients receive timely treatment and for containing outbreaks. Herein, we demonstrate a low-cost colorimetric assay that detects norovirus from clinical samples by combining paper-based cell-free transcription-translation systems, isothermal amplification and virus enrichment by synbodies. Using isothermal amplification and cell-free RNA sensing with toehold switches, we demonstrate that the assay enables detection of norovirus GII.4 Sydney from stool down to concentrations of 270 aM in reactions that can be directly read by eye. Furthermore, norovirus-binding synbodies and magnetic beads are used to concentrate the virus and provide a 1000-fold increase in assay sensitivity extending its detection limit to 270 zM. These results demonstrate the utility of paper-based cell-free diagnostic systems for identification of foodborne pathogens and provide a versatile diagnostic assay that can be applied to the concentration, amplification and detection of a broad range of infectious agents.

Keywords: cell-free system; diagnostic; norovirus; riboregulator.