Scientists claim to have made a medical breakthrough in unveiling a one-stop-shop test that can detect any virus in both humans and animals.
Researchers from Washington University in St. Louis say their technology could help doctors diagnose any viral infection even if they don't know what they're looking for.
Currently, detection of viruses is limited because it often relies on doctors having to know what type of virus they are looking for.
“With this test, you don’t have to know what you’re looking for,” said Dr. Gregory Storch, the lead author of the paper.
“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,” he added.
According to Storch and his team, current methods of detection can only scan for 20 similar viruses at any one point, which makes diagnosing patients who have been infected with new strains of a virus, particularly hard.
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Dubbed ViroCap, the new technology claims it can catch potentially deadly strains and help doctors give a more holistic diagnosis.
However, the test is yet to pass the research stage.
"The test is so sensitive that it also detects variant strains of viruses that are closely related genetically,” added Todd Wylie, a co-author.
“Slight genetic variations among viruses often can’t be distinguished by currently available tests and complicate physicians’ ability to detect all variants with one test.”
The test essentially works like puzzle. Researchers included 2 million stretches of genetic material that acts like an identity tag for various viruses, in the test.
These identity tags can then be used as a probe to find out if a person has been infected.
The research was published in Genome Research.
The paper compares two patient groups that were subjected to traditional tests and ViroCap. In both groups the latter bumped the number of viruses detected from 32 from 21.
If it passes the research phase, it could hail a new era in medicine as it could allow doctors to quickly find out if patients are infected with deadly viruses such Ebola.