USA – A ‘smartphone-based’ device that can detect ‘a handful of norovirus particles in water’ is being developed by scientists at the University of Arizona.

Labelled the ‘cruise ship’ microbe, the virus causes illness after the slightest exposure to it, so spotting its threat straight away is the only solution. “It only takes a very small number of norovirus particles to cause an infection in humans, so we need a really sensitive detection method,” says Jeong-Yeol Yoon, Ph.D., who led the team. 

The team is presenting the latest iteration of its innovative response to the problem this week at a meeting of the American Chemical Society (ACS). Images taken using a small fluorescence microscope attached to a smartphone are analysed by an app that calculates the concentration of norovirus. Yoon believes this could be used by staff managing municipal water systems to detect norovirus in the water supply.

Next the aim is to use the device to diagnose the infection quicker in patients to allow a speedier intervention.

“When norovirus reaches levels detectable by other methods, the person is already seriously ill,” added Yoon. “But if we can detect the virus earlier, they can receive medical care sooner.”