There are several methods that use this approach (such as immune based-library screening, mass spectrometry and microarray), but the most useful is next-generation sequencing.
After sorting out the human genetic material from the viral material, the research team compared the viral material against database libraries of known viruses. This identifies any known viruses in the blood.
After this second subtraction, researchers examined the remaining, unidentified material, and sorted out bacteria, phages, and viruses, among other material, based on specific protein signatures that mark each type of microorganism. The discovered, previously unknown viruses remain candidates for further investigation.
Key to the research team's success was the discovery of how to amplify the genetic material in the blood, says study researcher Xiaofeng Fan, M.D., associate professor of internal medicine at Saint Louis University.
In the past, blood serum wasn't used to its full potential because RNA degrades too quickly, leaving too little material to study. The amplification process used by the research team eliminated this problem.
The approach that the research team developed has the potential for immediate application in clinical situations concerning an unknown viral infection, like, for example, the recent outbreak of a SARS-like virus in Saudi Arabia.
In addition to offering a way to discover new viruses and test for known viruses in ill patients, this new technology could provide a valuable approach for those in the biodefense field looking for a way to quickly spot existing bio-threats.
Di Bisceglie says this technique will contribute to our understanding of the many viruses that live in the human body.
"Just as the human microbiome project is chronicling the bacteria that live and co-exist in every person, we also are studying th
|Contact: Carrie Bebermeyer|
Saint Louis University