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Saint Louis University researchers discover a way to detect new viruses
Date:6/17/2013

ST. LOUIS -- In research published in Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, Saint Louis University researchers describe a technology that can detect new, previously unknown viruses. The technique offers the potential to screen patients for viruses even when doctors have not identified a particular virus as the likely source of an infection.

In the new approach, scientists use blood serum as a biological source to categorize and discover viruses.

Taking advantage of the complete deciphering of the human genome, SLU researchers used a next-generation sequencing (NGS) approach called transcriptome subtraction. With this process, the research team subtracted the entire human genetic sequence from the genetic material in the blood they were examining. By studying what remained, they were able to identify viral genetic material in the blood.

"We have discovered a technology that allows us to detect new viruses," said Adrian Di Bisceglie, M.D., chairman of the department of internal medicine at Saint Louis University. "We isolate DNA and RNA, amplify the amount of genetic material present in the blood, do ultra-deep sequencing and use an algorithm to search for matches for every known piece of genetic code, both human and for microbes.

"Once we remove the known portions, we're ultimately left with new viruses."

When doctors suspect that a patient has a viral infection, it can be difficult to determine which virus is the culprit.

One way to test for the presence of a virus is to grow it in the lab from a biological sample, like tissue or blood, from the patient. However, that approach won't work if tissue isn't available, if there is no logical starting place for deciding which viruses to screen for (such as knowing that a patient was exposed to a particular virus), or in a "hit and run" viral infection, in which case there is a narrow time frame for tissue sampling.

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Contact: Carrie Bebermeyer
bebermcl@slu.edu
314-977-8015
Saint Louis University
Source:Eurekalert

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