A nanoscience discovery could slow down the start of a potential flu outbreak and speed up testing results for humans and the development of effective vaccines.

Professor Suresh Neethirajan, head of the BioNano Laboratory in the School of Engineering at the University of Guelph  worked with a team of scientists from Japan and South Korea.

"We have come up with a more sensitive monitoring system that can identify which strain will be most widely in circulation for a particular year in terms of viruses," said Neethirajan.

"Also which can help to predict the virus outbreak more earlier than the current conventional techniques."

The monitoring system Neethirajan and the team of scientists developed is 500 times more sensitive than conventional detection methods which involves shipping samples to other locations for testing.

"We are bringing down the time to a few seconds, less than a minute, so the end user can immediately know if the virus is present or not," said Professor Saresh.

The method could also be used to detect food-borne viruses.

The discovery is described in a paper in Scientific Reports, published by Nature this month.