Friday, December 2, 2016

New Testing Tool Can Identify 416 Tropical Viruses

Researchers from the University of São Paulo at Ribeirão Preto, Brazil have developed a platform that analyzes clinical samples from patients to diagnose infection by 416 viruses found in the world's tropical regions.  The researchers and developers state the tool can be used by reference laboratories such as Adolfo Lutz Institute, Oswaldo Cruz Foundation and Evandro Chagas Institute in Brazil to assist epidemiological surveillance by detecting pathogens with the potential to cause epidemics in humans.  The platform consists of a DNA microarray slide with eight identical sub-arrays containing viral probes replicated at least three times to complete the array with 15,000 probes. Each probe contains the sequences for 60 nucleotides that are complementary to the genomes of the viruses to be detected, with the sequences having been mounted based upon information from the organization GenBank using bioinformatics.  The lead researcher, Victor Aquino, generalizes the functionality of the platform with this phrase: "If a blood sample contains one of the 416 viruses included on the microchip, the pathogen's genome will bind with one of the probes to produce a marker that can be detected by a scanner".  An interesting fact is that the same device that reads the results is the same as that used in microarray assays for the analysis of gene expression. 
This development may not seem that substantial in the world of public health or virology, however, a tool such as this could play a key role in identifying and managing some of the potentially deadly viruses.  It is well known that the Tropics is a “hotspot” region for emerging diseases and the pathogens responsible, for example, a high percentage of the mosquito vector-based pathogens arose from this general region with the most recent being the infamous Zika.  Although this new tech seems trivial in the eyes of some individuals with regards to viral disease, it will most-certainly provide the ability to manage the many and often “hidden” viruses that may soon spread around the globe.
-Ethan Wentworth

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