Electrochemical Device Offers Hope for Accurate and Affordable Herpes Detection


Herpes simplex virus type 2 (HSV-2) infection, known for causing genital herpes, has long been a prevalent and lifelong condition. However, the absence of a reliable and accessible diagnostic device has posed significant challenges in managing and preventing its spread. In a new development, our team along with fantastic collaborators has introduced an ultrasensitive electrochemical biosensor that can detect HSV-2 antigens within an impressive 9 minutes and at a manufacturing cost of just US$1. This innovative biosensor, biofunctionalized with the human cellular receptor nectin-1, targets the glycoprotein gD2 found in the viral envelope of HSV-2.

Unprecedented Performance:
Extensive testing of this electrochemical biosensor has demonstrated exceptional sensitivity and specificity in detecting HSV-2 antigens. Utilizing a guinea pig model that closely mimics human biofluids, the biosensor achieved remarkable results, with 88.9% sensitivity, 100.0% specificity, and 95.0% accuracy. It boasts an impressive limit of detection, detecting gD2 protein at a concentration as low as 0.019 fg mL-1 and titered viral samples at 0.057 PFU mL-1. Importantly, the biosensor showed no cross-reactions with viruses other than HSV-2, underscoring its robustness and selectivity for HSV detection.

Addressing the Diagnostic Gap:

The lack of reliable and accessible diagnostic tools for HSV-2 has hindered effective management and prevention strategies. However, this newly developed technology provides a glimmer of hope by offering an affordable and accurate solution. With a manufacturing cost of just US$1, this low-cost biosensor has the potential to facilitate frequent testing, enabling timely interventions and improved management of HSV-2 infections.

Excitement for the Future:

Dr. Marcelo Torres, one of the scientists involved in this research, expressed enthusiasm for the implications of this technology, stating, “By bridging the diagnostic gap for HSV-2, our biosensor holds promise for herpes detection and enabling timely interventions. It has the potential to provide a much-needed low-cost solution for HSV-2 diagnosis.”


The introduction of this ultrasensitive electrochemical biosensor marks a significant advance in the field of HSV-2 detection. With its rapid and accurate capabilities, along with its low manufacturing cost, this innovative technology has the potential to advance HSV-2 diagnosis and significantly impact the management and prevention of genital herpes. Finally, this work pushes forward our team’s mission of developing low-cost technologies for those that need them most.

The research findings have been published in Cell Reports Physical Sciences and are now available online: https://www.cell.com/cell-reports-physical-science/fulltext/S2666-3864(23)00297-7.

For more information, please contact:
Machine Biology Group
University of Pennsylvania

Machine Biology Group

August 23, 2023

About Machine Biology Group:
The mission statement of the Machine Biology Group at the University of Pennsylvania is to use the power of machines to accelerate discoveries in biology and medicine.

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