ViroCap is a new test developed by researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, capable of detecting any known virus infecting both humans and animals.
This new technology, based on analyzing genomes specific to 34 virus families and detecting the most minute difference raises hopes of accurate and timely detection of any virus that could infect people or animals, regardless of the strain.
There are thousands of viruses out there, and many require a long time of tiring and at times tedious testing in order to be detected. Conventional testing is not only time-consuming, but it may not offer a broader picture either. Typically, due to low sensitivity, conventional testing also requires that a diagnose or at least an indication of what could cause a patient’s illness is known beforehand. ViroCap is bound to change this process.
Senior author of the study explaining how ViroCap functions, MD Gregory Storch and Professor of Pediatrics with the Ruth L. Siteman, declared:
“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 situation in which the cause of a disease outbreak is unknown”.
The results of the study have been published in this month’s issue of the Genome Research journal. ViroCap, according to the paper, is based on genome sequencing, which makes it uniquely efficient in accurately detecting the virus or viruses at play in the case of one patient or an outbreak.
ViroCap and the technology it uses has been developed as a strong collaborative project with the McDonnell Genome Institute. As such, ViroCap has been created to test genome sequences in samples retrieved from patients and detect the virus or viruses at play. It is a highly sensitive test, similar to the widely used gold-standard polymerase chain reaction assays (PCR). This type of testing, present in clinical laboratories around the world screens approximately 20 viruses at one time.
Unlike conventional testing, ViroCap is sufficiently sensitive to detect a variety of virus strains, as well as viruses that are similar genetically. The new test is bound to simply the work of physicians worldwide, and reduce the tedious workload associated with detecting more than one virus at a time or different strains of one virus present in samples.
It might take a few years until ViroCap is officially released on the market. Yet, the researchers behind this ambitious project wish to make it publicly available to both clinicians and scientists alike.
Photo Credits: Flickr
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