Real-time (RT) reverse-transcription polymerase chain reaction (PCR) is currently the most sensitive and reliable technique for detecting viruses. The technology involves making complementary DNA copies of viral RNA, multiplying the number of DNA copies and staining them with a fluorescent dye. The subtle differences in fluorescence intensity reflect the presence and quantity of viral RNA.
Tests confirmed that the portable RT-PCR device could detect H5N1 viruses in as little as 35 minutes. Not only is the device reliable and fast, it is also cheap to manufacture some 50 times cheaper than competing devices and uses little power, making it particularly suitable for field and point of care applications. Its cost-effectiveness may even make it attractive as an educational tool.