Rapid and stain-free quantification of viral plaque via lens-free holography and deep learning

Nature Biomedical Engineering(2023)

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A plaque assay—the gold-standard method for measuring the concentration of replication-competent lytic virions—requires staining and usually more than 48 h of runtime. Here we show that lens-free holographic imaging and deep learning can be combined to expedite and automate the assay. The compact imaging device captures phase information label-free at a rate of approximately 0.32 gigapixels per hour per well, covers an area of about 30 × 30 mm 2 and a 10-fold larger dynamic range of virus concentration than standard assays, and quantifies the infected area and the number of plaque-forming units. For the vesicular stomatitis virus, the automated plaque assay detected the first cell-lysing events caused by viral replication as early as 5 h after incubation, and in less than 20 h it detected plaque-forming units at rates higher than 90% at 100% specificity. Furthermore, it reduced the incubation time of the herpes simplex virus type 1 by about 48 h and that of the encephalomyocarditis virus by about 20 h. The stain-free assay should be amenable for use in virology research, vaccine development and clinical diagnosis.
viral plaque,deep learning,stain-free,lens-free
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