Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

The Common Flu -- Or Bioterrorism? Institute Of Human Virology Works On A Rapid Diagnostic Tool To Help Answer The Question

Date:
September 3, 2002
Source:
Institute Of Human Virology
Summary:
In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent Anthrax scares, scientific researchers worldwide are working to expand the ability to rapidly assess what poses a terrorism threat to the public at large. The Institute of Human Virology, in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research (WRAIR) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is working to develop diagnostic tools that can distinguish common flu-like viruses from biochemical warfare pathogens.

In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and subsequent Anthrax scares, scientific researchers worldwide are working to expand the ability to rapidly assess what poses a terrorism threat to the public at large. The Institute of Human Virology, in collaboration with the Walter Reed Army Institute for Research (WRAIR) and the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is working to develop diagnostic tools that can distinguish common flu-like viruses from biochemical warfare pathogens.

"The symptoms for both the common flu and biowarfare agents can be near identical," explains Dr. Maria Salvato, a researcher and professor at the Institute of Human Virology, a center of the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute and affiliated with the University of Maryland School of Medicine. "By identifying the gene expression that corresponds to the most common strains of flu, we can more quickly discriminate a relatively common viral infection from a more serious threat."

Jennie Hunter-Cevera, the president of UMBI, emphasizes the critical need for diagnostic capabilities from the public health perspective. "Should there be a terrorist event using biochemical warfare, emergency rooms would be ill-equipped to make a quick assessment. Our diagnostics," she adds, "seek to detect the earliest stages of exposure to a pathogen or toxin."

The Walter Reed Army Institute for Research has long been working toward ways to more quickly identify agents of biochemical warfare. For the last 10 years, Dr. Marti Jett's laboratory at the WRAIR has monitored blood cell responses to smallpox, anthrax, cholera, plague, endotoxin, and many other lethal agents. By analyzing mRNA changes that occur in the blood cells after they have been exposed to a pathogen or toxin, Dr. Jett's lab has been able to catalog those gene expression responses indicative of the presence of toxins.

At the IHV, Dr. Salvato's lab will expose blood cell cultures to five different viruses that cause flu-like symptoms (influenza, respiratory syncytial virus, parainfluenza virus, rhinovirus, and arenavirus) to determine which genes can discriminate between natural disease and biowarfare agents.

In the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, there is a heightened public awareness of potential pitfalls in emergency response efforts and, given the difficulty of both diagnosing the common flu and distinguishing it from the more serious threats posed by agents of biochemical warfare, researchers are pooling resources to develop rapid diagnostics that can be used globally toward this goal.

The science boils down to a process of elimination.

Each human cell contains 40,000 genes and only expresses 1-10 percent of those genes in the form of messenger RNA (mRNA). When blood cells come in contact with a pathogen or toxin, they change the spectrum of genes they express which means they change the spectrum of mRNA they produce. Changes in blood cell mRNA can be detected by hybridizing the mRNA to microarrays. Microarrays are glass slides or membranes covered with thousands of spots, each spot containing fragments of genes (DNA fragments) that will bind to probes made from the mRNA. Indicator dyes are used to light up spots on the microarray and to indicate changes in the expression of blood cell genes.

Drs. Salvato and Jett hope to narrow the list down to about 50 genes per virus that have been chosen for their diagnostic pathogen-specific potential.

Those genes determined to have the ability to discriminate between natural disease and biowarfare agents will be printed on a limited microarray called a "Select Chip" that will be used to rapidly determine whether blood cells have been exposed to a dangerous agent. The diagnostic tool, which could be available in as little as two years, would allow physicians the ability to determine within hours -- potentially minutes -- whether a person has a common flu or has been exposed to more serious agents.

To validate these laboratory findings, blood and nose-wash samples from patients with flu-like symptoms will be taken while ill and after recovery for correlation with clinical diagnoses. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and the leadership team of the University of Maryland Medical Center's Emergency Medicine Division are collaborating with the Institute in this endeavor. A preliminary report is due this fall.

"Though it would have been beneficial earlier to have a test that diagnosed flu, it wasn't critical based on the fact that the severity of the illness was relatively mild and treatment protocols typically resorted to simple prescriptions such as antibiotics and rest," says Dr. Brian Browne, head of emergency medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center and professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

"Post 9/11, however, the reality that flu-like illness might be something more severe prompts us to reconsider the value of a diagnostic tool that could 1) confirm a case of flu and 2) simultaneously distinguish it from what could easily become a crisis. Because, in fact, it's extremely hard to tell the difference," says Dr. Browne. "Having something more definitive -- and so quickly available -- would be very reassuring to doctors everywhere."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Institute Of Human Virology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Institute Of Human Virology. "The Common Flu -- Or Bioterrorism? Institute Of Human Virology Works On A Rapid Diagnostic Tool To Help Answer The Question." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 3 September 2002. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020903071914.htm>.
Institute Of Human Virology. (2002, September 3). The Common Flu -- Or Bioterrorism? Institute Of Human Virology Works On A Rapid Diagnostic Tool To Help Answer The Question. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 15, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020903071914.htm
Institute Of Human Virology. "The Common Flu -- Or Bioterrorism? Institute Of Human Virology Works On A Rapid Diagnostic Tool To Help Answer The Question." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2002/09/020903071914.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).

Share This



More Health & Medicine News

Monday, September 15, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

EU Ministers and Experts Meet to Discuss Ebola Reponse

AFP (Sep. 15, 2014) The European Commission met on Monday to coordinate aid that the EU can offer to African countries affected by the Ebola outbreak. Duration: 00:58 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Despite The Risks, Antibiotics Still Overprescribed For Kids

Newsy (Sep. 15, 2014) A new study finds children are prescribed antibiotics twice as often as is necessary. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

FDA Eyes Skin Shocks Used at Mass. School

AP (Sep. 15, 2014) The FDA is considering whether to ban devices used by the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, Massachusetts, the only place in the country known to use electrical skin shocks as aversive conditioning for aggressive patients. (Sept. 15) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Respiratory Virus Spreads To Northeast, Now In 21 States

Newsy (Sep. 14, 2014) The respiratory virus Enterovirus D68, which targets children, has spread from the Midwest to 21 states. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins