Scientists have developed a new test that finds any virus that has infected a person or an animal. This is a game changer for infection testing.
This new medical technology sounds like it's coming straight from Star Trek's sickbay.
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Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have developed a new test that can detect virtually any virus that infects people and animals.
A doctor does not need to know what to look for when asking a lab for a blood test.
"With this test, you don't have to know what you're looking for. 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." said the study's senior author, Gregory Storch, MD, the Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics.
Many thousands of viruses are known to cause illness in people and animals and making a diagnosis can be an exhaustive exercise, at times requiring a battery of different tests. That's because current tests aren't sensitive enough to detect low levels of viral bugs or are limited to detecting only those viruses suspected of being responsible for a patient's illness.
Results published online in September in the journal Genome Research demonstrate that in patient samples the new test - called ViroCap - can detect viruses not found by standard testing based on genome sequencing.
The new test could be used to detect outbreaks of deadly viruses such as Ebola, Marburg and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), as well as more routine viruses, including rotavirus and norovirus, both of which cause severe gastrointestinal infections.
The Washington University researchers are making the technology they developed publicly available to scientists and clinicians worldwide, for the benefit of patients and research.