Viral haemorrhagic fevers (VHF) are of specific concern because they are associated with high morbidity and mortality, and the potential for rapid dissemination through human-to-human transmission. "Currently, there is no way to treat most of these outbreaks," stated W. Ian Lipkin, MD, professor of Epidemiology, Neurology and Pathology at Columbia University. He added, "The most important first step is diagnostic - rapid identification of the exact pathogen responsible for an outbreak."
While other tools exist for the detection of VHF agents, none would offer the sensitivity and speed of this new diagnostic screen, which incorporates MassTag PCR technology - providing the ability to simultaneously consider multiple agents, thereby reducing the time needed for differential diagnosis. To address the need for highly sensitive diagnostics, researchers built on an established method known as polymerase chain reaction that allows amplification of genetic sequences and on a technology previously used for DNA sequencing and detection of genetic polymorphisms. Genetic probes for pathogens were coupled to markers known as mass codes. After amplification, incorporated mass codes were detected by mass spectroscopy allowing identification of the pathogen.
To facilitate rapid differential diagnosis of VHF agents, the scientists established the "Greene MassTag Panel VHF v1.0," which can screen simultaneously for Ebola Zaire, Ebola Sudan, Marburg, Lassa virus, Rift Valley fever, Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever, Hantaan, Seoul, yellow fever, and Kyasanur Forest disease viruses.
Stated Lipkin, "This work represents an unprecedented collaboration in the creation of diagnostics for the developing world. The contributors to this work represent laboratories devoted to strengthening global disease surveillance and outbreak response capabilities."
MEDICA.de; Source: Columbia University