Exploring optical spectroscopic techniques and nanomaterials for virus detection

Saudi J Biol Sci. 2021 Jan;28(1):78-89. doi: 10.1016/j.sjbs.2020.08.034. Epub 2020 Aug 27.


Viral infections pose significant health challenges globally by affecting millions of people worldwide and consequently resulting in a negative impact on both socioeconomic development and health. Corona virus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a clear example of how a virus can have a global impact in the society and has demonstrated the limitations of detection and diagnostic capabilities globally. Another virus which has posed serious threats to world health is the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which is a lentivirus of the retroviridae family responsible for causing acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Even though there has been a significant progress in the HIV biosensing over the past years, there is still a great need for the development of point of care (POC) biosensors that are affordable, robust, portable, easy to use and sensitive enough to provide accurate results to enable clinical decision making. The aim of this study was to present a proof of concept for detecting HIV-1 pseudoviruses by using anti-HIV1 gp41 antibodies as capturing antibodies. In our study, glass substrates were treated with a uniform layer of silane in order to immobilize HIV gp41 antibodies on their surfaces. Thereafter, the HIV pseudovirus was added to the treated substrates followed by addition of anti-HIV gp41 antibodies conjugated to selenium nanoparticle (SeNPs) and gold nanoclusters (AuNCs). The conjugation of SeNPs and AuNCs to anti-HIV gp41 antibodies was characterized using UV-vis spectroscopy, transmission electron microscopy (TEM) and zeta potential while the surface morphology was characterized by fluorescence microscopy, atomic force microscopy (AFM) and Raman spectroscopy. The UV-vis and zeta potential results showed that there was successful conjugation of SeNPs and AuNCs to anti-HIV gp41 antibodies and fluorescence microscopy showed that antibodies immobilized on glass substrates were able to capture intact HIV pseudoviruses. Furthermore, AFM also confirmed the capturing HIV pseudoviruses and we were able to differentiate between substrates with and without the HIV pseudoviruses. Raman spectroscopy confirmed the presence of biomolecules related to HIV and therefore this system has potential in HIV biosensing applications.

Keywords: Anti-HIV gp41 antibodies; Biosensing; Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV); Nanomaterials.