ViroCap: Detecting all Viruses Infecting Humans and Animals
Linda has never liked cramming, that is why tonight, a Friday night, she is studying for her exams on Monday instead of partying with her friends. After hours of reading and trying to take in everything she has read, she finally closes her books and heads to bed. However, despite how sleepy she already is, she still can’t seem to fall asleep. Nursing concepts continue to invade her mind. Based on her readings on the different diseases tonight, it takes a lot of tests to detect different viruses. She wonders, if in the future, instead of the many tests that need to be done, it would be possible to conduct only one. Or if it would be possible for healthcare professionals to detect something wrong though they do not even know what they are looking for. Someday, maybe. Someday.
In their aim to help doctors diagnose infection regardless if they do not have a clue what they are looking for, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis have advanced a new test capable of discovering nearly all viruses known to infect humans and animals – ViroCap.
ViroCap is a test that can accurately diagnose viruses, even when doctors have no idea what they’re actually looking for. Though it will still be a few years before this test finds its way into your doctor’s toolkit. Currently, ViroCap needs to be tested in clinical trials but the technology is already made accessible to health service providers and researchers as it is being developed.
Detecting almost any virus
The study’s senior author, Gregory Storch, MD said that “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.”
According to a recent study published in the journal Genome Research, the ViroCap can detect almost any virus known to infect humans and animals, ranging from common viruses like norovirus to more bizarre ones like Marburg.
It is said to be so sensitive that it can even detect irregular strains of viruses as well as multiple viruses at the same time, which is something no other current diagnostic test is capable of. Currently available tests are not sensitive enough for sensing low levels of viral bugs or can only distinguish viruses that are suspected of being the cause of a patient’s illness.
Also, UPI reported that the ViroCap was 52 percent more accurate at diagnosing viruses than polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests, which are currently used for diagnoses.
In developing the test, the researchers beset unique stretches of DNA or RNA from every known group of viruses that infects humans and animals, amounting to approximately 2 million unique stretches of genetic material from viruses in the test. These stretches of material are utlized as probes to pluck out viruses in patient samples that are a genetic match. The matched viral material then is analyzed with high-throughput genetic sequencing. “As completely new viruses are discovered, their genetic material could easily be added to the test,”Storch said.
The researchers plan to conduct additional research to authenticate the precision of the test, thus it could be several years before it is clinically available.
“It also may be possible to modify the test so that it could be used to detect pathogens other than viruses, including bacteria, fungi and other microbes, as well as genes that would indicate the pathogen is resistant to treatment with antibiotics or other drugs,” said co-author Kristine Wylie, PhD, assistant professor of pediatrics.
According to researchers, “We have created a targeted sequence capture panel, ViroCap, designed to enrich nucleic acid from DNA and RNA viruses from 34 families that infect vertebrate hosts. ViroCap substantially enhances Metagenomic shotgun sequencing (MSS) for a comprehensive set of viruses and has utility for research and clinical applications.”