Diagnosis :: Rapid test for killer viruses available

A rapid diagnostic test capable of detecting and identifying viruses such as Dengue, Yellow Fever and Japanese encephalitis (JEV) has been developed that has significantly reduced the time and discomfort involved with diagnosing an infection.

Australian Biosecurity CRC (AB-CRC) PhD student Sheryl Maher said, as part of her 2007 Cooperative Research Centres Associations Conference Early Career Science Presentations, the test could detect and identify all flaviviruses ? the first of its kind.

?The test provides a preliminary result within three hours, and positive identification in six hours, making it ideal for remote and regional diagnostic facilities,? Sheryl said.

In Asia, JEV affects 50,000 people causing 10,000 deaths and 8,000 permanent disabilities. In 1995 JEV, previously unseen in Australia, killed two people in northern Queensland. Identification took more than two weeks and caused significant delays in the deployment of health officials, and the containment and eradication of the virus.

The eradication was considered successful until it was detected again in 1996 and 1998. However, if this virus moves south to more densely populated areas, the number of people infected with JEV could be higher.

Currently, different blood samples are required for each virus identification test. With this new test, the need to administer numerous needles to patients is eradicated, as one blood sample can be used to test for more than 60 different viruses.

Dr Russell d’Scarlett from the Doctors Cairns Medical Centre in Queensland said traditional antibody-based tests are only performed one to two weeks after symptoms appear, otherwise, there was no evidence of infection. Newer molecular-based tests can be performed earlier, but still take more than a week to process.

?This new test allows us to make speedy diagnosis and take appropriate measures to identify the infection source and prevent further spreading of the virus. We have had several Dengue Fever epidemics in Cairns and earlier diagnosis could have helped reduce their severity,? Dr d?Scarlett said.

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