One blood test to detect every virus? Count me in. Every time I end up at the doctor it typically goes like this: triage to take my temperature, blood pressure, yada, yada. Then comes the dreaded blood work.
I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m not the biggest fan of heading to the doctor. I’ll wait until I’m really sick and then show up. Smart? Not even remotely, but when the needles come out it’s a bad day.
Evidently, my veins agree with me wholeheartedly. Right arm? Missed or the vein collapsed. Left arm? Come now, you gotta be joking, right? And I have the perfect I’m gonna pass out face.
It ends with an RN using a syringe because the vacuum seal collapses my vein. Or in the case of my last ER visit, 45 minutes of hell on Earth of them using a blood pressure cuff as a tourniquet. Can’t be mad at them, I’m the one with the veins that hide.
Meet ViroCap. The one stop shopping test that makes the TV show House obsolete. Sorry brother, it ain’t Lupus.
ViroCap allows doctors to take a broad approach in diagnosing potential infections in patients. In fact, the researchers behind ViroCap say the doctors can approach a patient’s diagnosis without having a clue at the starting point.
Wait… I’m already pacing the room. File ‘the doctor doesn’t have a clue’ under information I don’t want to know.
“With this test, you don’t have to know what you’re looking for,” said Dr. Gregory Storch, a professor of pediatrics at Washington University in St. Louis, in a press release. “It casts a broad net and can efficiently detect viruses that are present at very low levels. We think the test will be especially useful in situations where a diagnosis remains elusive after standard testing or in situations in which the cause of a disease outbreak is unknown.”
Hey, if this involves me not becoming a pin cushion each time I visit the doctor, I’m 100 percent on board. Take the fishing net approach. Just easy on the needles.
Before the hypochondriac in you rushes to the doctor to figure out every virus you have in your system, hang on. It’s not ready for primetime. The research, published in Genome Research, breaks down by creating a panel with sequences to test DNA and RNA from viruses in 34 organism families.
What the researchers found is that ViroCap was just as sensitive as polymerase chain reaction, or PCR, assays. The difference? Everything can be tested at once. Later astronomically long waiting times.
Two samples sizes were analyzed for the paper. In a set of 14 patients, the PCR assay found viral infections in 10 of the 14 patients. The ViroCap test picked up viruses missed in the remaining four.
Viruses missed were relatively common like influenza B, parechovirus, varicella-zoster (can cause chickenpox) and the herpesvirus 1 (causes cold sores in the mouth).
In the second group that included children with unexplained fever, the PCR found 11 viruses in eight children. ViroCap? It added seven more viral detections.
How much of an improvement is ViroCap over the standard assay testing? Researchers point to a 52 percent improvement over the PCR.
“The test is so sensitive that it also detects variant strains of viruses that are closely related genetically,” said Todd Wylie, a pediatrics professor at Washington University. “Slight genetic variations among viruses often can’t be distinguished by currently available tests and complicate physicians’ ability to detect all variants with one test.”
More testing and clinical trials. Researchers have promised to release the test publicly for other doctors and researchers to use and refine the test.
In the future? It may be able to test for other pathogens, though knocking out nearly every potential viral infection is one hell of an advancement.
Now, can we figure out how to do this without needles? Please. I have to rip off at least three gauze pads from a simple CBC, so I don’t freak out the people in the waiting room. Tip from many years as a pin cushion? Pediatric butterfly needles or syringes. Works like a charm and I don’t look like I’m going lights out on you.