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New Method Allows Scientists To Quickly Identify Individual Virus Particles

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New Method Allows Scientists To Quickly Identify Individual Virus Particles

A composite image of herpes simplex virus particles, obtained by AFM-IR. Influenza, SARS-CoV-2 and other viruses come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes, and by studying these shapes, scientists can learn how they function and how viral illnesses might be conquered.

Now, a team of Texas A&M AgriLife researchers has demonstrated a noninvasive way to study viruses that is quicker and more detailed than the current “gold standard” method. The study appeared recently in Analytical Chemistry .

“The need for very fast and accurate virus identification has always been important in the past, and this year it’s even more important because we know that viruses change; they mutate,” said Dmitry Kurouski , assistant professor in the Texas A&M University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics , who led the study. “If someone has flu-like symptoms, how can we quickly distinguish the flu from COVID-19?”

Most viruses are too small to be seen under a typical microscope, so scientists often study flash-frozen virus samples with electron microscopes. These tools use beams of electrons to probe the virions’ intricate molecular structures. However, preparing samples for electron microscopy is time- and labor-consuming.

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Kurouski’s team used a combination of two sophisticated techniques that, in theory, should require almost no sample preparation. Kurouski’s lab is unique in its ability to use both methods — tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy and atomic-force microscopy–infrared spectroscopy. Tianyi Dou, a graduate student in Kurouski’s lab, performed the experiments.

In both methods, the samples are approached with an extremely sharp metal needle covered with gold. Tip-enhanced Raman spectroscopy detects how a sample scatters laser light. This technique enabled the […]

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