Vertical Flow Immunodevice- An Innovative Low-Cost Device for Early Monitoring of Plant Viral Diseases

Assay Steps and test result interpretation using vertical flow Immunodevice (VFID)
Assay Steps and test result interpretation using vertical flow Immunodevice (VFID)

Agriculture is India's most economically strong sector, and it plays an important role in the country's overall socio-economic structure. In 2018, agriculture employed more than half of India's workforce and contributed 17–18% of the country's GDP. India has long been at the forefront of agriculture and a big producer of potatoes.

Abiotic and biotic variables have a significant impact on agricultural crop productivity. In totality, among all of the losses attributed to agricultural productivity viruses alone account for a $30 billion loss globally. Plant viruses are highly contagious and their effects on plants are often drastically leading to reduced crop yield and quality. Therefore, plant health management strategies have to be asserted to deal with plant health and issues that affect crop productivity.

Potato is the most widely grown non-grain food crop in the world, with India ranking second in production. Potato, like other crops, is susceptible to a number of viral diseases that cause reduced output and, in some cases, full crop destruction in the field since the symptoms lie undiscovered for a long time.

In the case of potatoes, low market pricing of tubers at harvest, poor seed quality for sowing, and storage issues all contribute to low output worldwide. Approximately 40 potato viruses have been identified in various countries with different climates affecting potato productivity. Generally, viral infections are very rapid that devastate several acres of the crop within a very limited time frame. Hence, rapid and nonlaboratory screening of potato plants for pathogenic viruses is crucial to curb the economic losses.

Potato virus Y (PVY) is one of the most widespread and damaging viruses responsible for potato tuber necrotic ringspot disease (PTNRD) affecting potato cultivation globally. Typically, such viral diseases lie undiagnosed until a noticeable symptom appears, by which time the entire field has been infected, making it nearly difficult to save it. As a result, early detection of PVY is crucial in limiting its spread.

Dr. Alok Pandya from the Institute of Advanced Research, Gandhinagar, Gujarat with Nidhi Verma (Ph.D. scholar) has developed an immunodevice that acts as a promising platform for detecting such viruses at the earliest possible stage, even if symptoms do not manifest, thus saving acres of land from being infected. We have designed and developed a highly sensitive paper microfluidic-based vertical flow immune device (VFID) for the detection of PVY.

The proposed VFID combines the formation of sandwich immunocomplex with gold nanoparticles to produce visual results in 3−4 min. The reliability of VFID was tested with potato leaf samples from potato farm regions. The relative error ranging between a value of 0.2 and 2% indicated the excellent accuracy and performance of the proposed VFID. When compared to existing POC tests for PVY virus detection, the overall estimated cost of each VFID was calculated to be ~0.8 USD for the detection of PVY. Therefore, our developed immunodevice offered an accurate and fruitful diagnostic tool for the detection of potato viral disease. We greatly acknowledge Gujarat State Biotechnology Mission (GSBTM) for financially supporting this project.

The next goal would be to upgrading to a stronger and more diverse version of the paper microfluidic-based electrochemical device for the detection of multiple viruses at once. 

As a researcher, we feel satisfied to contribute towards our farmers and be part of an Atmanirbhar Bharat and Make in India Programme.

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