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June 9th, 2005
In what may be one of the first medical uses of nanotechnology, a chemist and a doctor who specializes in infectious childhood diseases have joined forces to create an early detection method for a respiratory virus that is the most common cause of hospitalization among children under five.
Current methods of detecting the virus can take from two to six days, postponing effective treatment. The new, high-tech method uses multi-colored, microscopic fluorescent beads, called quantum dots, which bind to molecular structures that are unique to the virus's coat and the cells that it infects. In a paper appearing in the June issue of the journal Nanoletters, the Vanderbilt researchers report that not only can a quantum dot system detect the presence of particles of the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in a matter of hours, rather than the two to five days required by current tests, but it is also more sensitive, allowing it to detect the virus earlier in the course of an infection.
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