Ultrafast, sensitive and large-volume on-chip real-time PCR for the molecular diagnosis of bacterial and viral infections†
To control future infectious disease outbreaks, like the 2014 Ebola epidemic, it is necessary to develop ultrafast molecular assays enabling rapid and sensitive diagnoses. To that end, several ultrafast real-time PCR systems have been previously developed, but they present issues that hinder their wide adoption, notably regarding their sensitivity and detection volume. An ultrafast, sensitive and large-volume real-time PCR system based on microfluidic thermalization is presented herein. The method is based on the circulation of pre-heated liquids in a microfluidic chip that thermalize the PCR chamber by diffusion and ultrafast flow switches. The system can achieve up to 30 real-time PCR cycles in around 2 minutes, which makes it the fastest PCR thermalization system for regular sample volume to the best of our knowledge. After biochemical optimization, anthrax and Ebola simulating agents could be respectively detected by a real-time PCR in 7 minutes and a reverse transcription real-time PCR in 7.5 minutes. These detections are respectively 6.4 and 7.2 times faster than with an off-the-shelf apparatus, while conserving real-time PCR sample volume, efficiency, selectivity and sensitivity. The high-speed thermalization also enabled us to perform sharp melting curve analyses in only 20 s and to discriminate amplicons of different lengths by rapid real-time PCR. This real-time PCR microfluidic thermalization system is cost-effective, versatile and can be then further developed for point-of-care, multiplexed, ultrafast and highly sensitive molecular diagnoses of bacterial and viral diseases.
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