Researchers develop test to detect virtually any virus
Diagnosing an illness can be expensive and time-consuming, as many tests are often required.
"With this test, you don't have to know what you're looking for," said the study's senior author, Gregory Storch, M.D., the Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics. "It casts a broad net and can efficiently detect viruses that are present at very low levels. We think the test will be especially useful in situations where a diagnosis remains elusive after standard testing or in situations in which the cause of a disease outbreak is unknown."
The new test, called ViroCap, can detect viruses not caught through standard testing based on genome sequencing. The new test could be used to detect such viruses as ebola, marburg and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), as well as more common viruses such as rotavirus and norovirus.
The Washington University researchers are making the technology they developed publicly available to scientists and clinicians across the globe.
The test was evaluated with two sets of biological samples from patients at St. Louis Children's Hospital. The new test found viruses in the four children that earlier testing had missed. In another set, the new test found seven additional viruses that had been missed by standard testing, including a respiratory virus called human adenovirus B type 3A.
"The test is so sensitive that it also detects variant strains of viruses that are closely related genetically," said corresponding author Todd Wylie, an instructor of pediatrics. "Slight genetic variations among viruses often can't be distinguished by currently available tests and complicate physicians' ability to detect all variants with one test."
Because the test includes detailed genetic information about various strains of particular viruses, subtypes can be easily identified.
"It also may be possible to modify the test so that it could be used to detect pathogens other than viruses, including bacteria, fungi and other microbes, as well as genes that would indicate the pathogen is resistant to treatment with antibiotics or other drugs," said co-author Kristine Wylie, Ph.D., assistant professor of pediatrics.
The research for the test has been funded by the National Institutes of Health.