New Test Detects Nearly All Viruses Say Scientists

Posted on September 29, 2015

Researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis say they have developed a new test that can detect virtually any virus that infects people and animals. The test has been named ViroCap. The researchers say it can also detect variant strains of viruses. The above electron micrograph shows Ebola virus particles (light blue) emerging from a chronically infected VERO E6 cell.

The researchers say current tests aren't sensitive enough to detect low levels of viral bugs. They also say most tests are limited to detecting only the virus or viruses suspected of causing the patient's current illness. The researchers say you don't need to know the particular virus you are looking for with their test.

Gregory Storch, MD, Ruth L. Siteman Professor of Pediatrics and senior author of the study, says in the announcement, "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."

The results of the test were published here in the journal, Genome Research. They say it can detect viruses like Ebola, Marburg, SARS as well as less deadly but very contagious viruses like rotavirus and noravirus.

In one test the researchers tested blood, stool and nasal secretions from patients at St. Louis Children's Hospital for viruses. A second test was ran on a group of children with unexplained fevers. The ViroCap test detected a total of 32 viruses in the patients while only 21 viruses were found using standard tests.

Study author and pediatrics instructor Todd Wylie says, "The test is so sensitive that it also detects variant strains of viruses that are closely related genetically. 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."

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