A prominent multinational research group led by Columbia University researchers and funded by NIAID has adapted a diagnostic procedure for detecting respiratory diseases and modified it to quickly and accurately detect ten types of viral hemorrhagic fever (VHF) viruses, such as Ebola and Marburg.
The development would be especially crucial if the technology can be simplified to be mobile, as the group believes, and thus be made available in rural locations with limited or no health care facilities. Other diagnostic methods exist for detecting VHFs, but this is the first tool that can detect multiple VHF varieties in a single test.
Virus detection occurs by “tagging” sequences of genes in the clinical sample with probes of a known molecular weight, irradiating the tags, and then analyzing the tags with a piece of equipment called a mass spectrometer, which identifies substances by their mass.
The research team is exploring whether the method can further be adapted to include detection of bacterial and parasitic agents of disease.
Palacios G et al. MassTag polymerase chain reaction for differential diagnosis of viral hemorrhagic fevers. Emerging Infectious Diseases, April 2006. Available from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Last Updated November 30, 2006