Nanomaterials for virus sensing and tracking
The effect of the on-going COVID-19 pandemic on global healthcare systems has underlined the importance of timely and cost-effective point-of-care diagnosis of viruses. The need for ultrasensitive easy-to-use platforms has culminated in an increased interest for rapid response equipment-free alternatives to conventional diagnostic methods such as polymerase chain reaction, western-blot assay, etc. Furthermore, the poor stability and the bleaching behavior of several contemporary fluorescent reporters is a major obstacle in understanding the mechanism of viral infection thus retarding drug screening and development. Owing to their extraordinary surface-to-volume ratio as well as their quantum confinement and charge transfer properties, nanomaterials are desirable additives to sensing and imaging systems to amplify their signal response as well as temporal resolution. Their large surface area promotes biomolecular integration as well as efficacious signal transduction. Due to their hole mobility, photostability, resistance to photobleaching, and intense brightness, nanomaterials have a considerable edge over organic dyes for single virus tracking. This paper reviews the state-of-the-art of combining carbon-allotrope, inorganic and organic-based nanomaterials with virus sensing and tracking methods, starting with the impact of human pathogenic viruses on the society. We address how different nanomaterials can be used in various virus sensing platforms (e.g. lab-on-a-chip, paper, and smartphone-based point-of-care systems) as well as in virus tracking applications. We discuss the enormous potential for the use of nanomaterials as simple, versatile, and affordable tools for detecting and tracing viruses infectious to humans, animals, plants as well as bacteria. We present latest examples in this direction by emphasizing major advantages and limitations.