Recent zoonotic outbreaks, such as Zika, Middle East respiratory syndrome and Ebola, have highlighted the need for rapid and accurate diagnostic assays that can be used to aid pathogen control. Q fever is a zoonotic disease caused by the transmission of Coxiella burnetii that can cause serious illness in humans through aerosols and is considered a potential bioterrorism agent. However, the existing assays are not suitable for the detection of this pathogen due to its low levels in real samples. We here describe a rapid bio-optical sensor for the accurate detection of Q fever and validate its clinical utility. By combining a bio-optical sensor, that transduces the presence of the target DNA based on binding-induced changes in the refractive index on the waveguide surface in a label-free and real-time manner, with isothermal DNA amplification, this new diagnostic tool offers a rapid (<20min), 1-step DNA amplification/detection method. We confirmed the clinical sensitivity (>90%) of the bio-optical sensor by detecting C. burnetii in 11 formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded liver biopsy samples from acute Q fever hepatitis patients and in 16 blood plasma samples from patients in which Q fever is the cause of fever of unknown origin.
bio-optical sensor; clinical specimens; isothermal DNA amplification; Q fever; zoonosis