A team of researchers have prepared a test – ViroCap – that can allegedly detect any virus known to infect humans and animals. Their promising findings published in Genome Research might be the answer to the predicament of inaccurate and/or time-consuming diagnosis methods.
Diagnosis is a key element in treating patients; correctly identifying the disease allows the medical personnel to determine which treatment to administer. Conversely, difficulty in detecting the cause behind symptoms of diseased people greatly impedes the process. The same goes for viral infections. A team from the Washington University School of Medicine might have brought forth a ray of light though. It is believed that the researchers might have come up with a universal test that could spot any known virus in a sample accurately and swiftly, thereby alleviating the burden of diagnosis.
“With this test, you don’t have to know what you’re looking for,” senior author Gregory Storch said in a statement. “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 scientists created their test called “ViroCap” by elaborating a list of specific sequences – that are to be the target of the test – from the DNA or RNA found in viruses from 34 families known to infect humans and animals. The outcome being millions of stretches of nucleic acid can then detect complementary strands in a sample.
Furthermore, the test is described as being extremely sensitive such that it can even spot minor variations in sequences. This implies that the subtypes of viruses can also be detected.
ViroCap can thus find viruses that conventional sequencing methods cannot such as a flu virus and the chickenpox one.
The researchers have not yet finalised their test though. It cannot as yet be used clinically, and more testing needs to be done on larger groups of people. The scientists are positive that, once ready, ViroCap can aid disease surveillance, specially for disastrous viral outbreaks such as the Ebola one.