A research team has come up with a new diagnostic test that is capable of detecting almost every single virus known to infect animals and humans.
This invention might allow doctors make diagnosis of infections even without knowing what exactly they are searching for. However, it is unlikely that the new test called ViroCap will be used regularly on patients anytime soon. This is because the accuracy of the test will first have to be verified through extensive clinical trials.
The technology has already been made available publicly, but to doctors and scientists who will now be testing and developing it further.
Dr. Gregory Storch, who teaches pediatrics at the Washington University, St. Louis, said that this test is special as it would not require doctors to know what they are looking for. He added that the test would be casting a broad net, and will be detecting viruses efficiently even if they are present in very low levels.
Dr. Storch and his team feels that the test will particularly be useful in cases where a correct diagnosis remains elusive even after standard tests are conducted or in cases where the factors causing a disease outbreak couldn’t be identified.
To develop the test, the research team tested RNA and DNA from viruses belonging to 34 organism families. They found that the test can detect almost all viruses and that’s not all, it was also found to posses the ability of testing for variations of all common viruses. This makes ViroCap a potential way of catching infections that were never considered even by doctors.
Researchers used two sets of nasal secretion, stool and blood samples and carried out regular PCR tests and ViroCap on them respectively. On comparing the results, they found that the PCR successfully detected viruses in 10 out of 14 patients, while ViroCap caught viruses even in the remaining 4 patients.
The viruses that PCR tests failed to diagnose include influenza B, known for causing seasonal flu, herpes virus 1, the virus responsible for causing oral cold sores, varicella-zoster virus, the virus responsible for causing chickenpox and a mild respiratory and gastrointestinal virus.
In another group participating in the study, which had children, suffering from unexplained fevers the standard test detected 11 viruses, while ViroCap detected a total of 18 viruses.
The entire study has been published in the popular journal Genome Research.