Friday, February 15, 2019

New Virus Detecter Helps Identify Any Virus

An article by Science Daily describes a new disease surveillance tool that can help detect any human-infecting virus. One of the problems during the Zika outbreak in 2015 was that there weren't many Zika virus particles in the blood of an infected patient. This made it difficult to obtain clinical samples and to study the genetics of the virus. Broad Institute developed CATCH, a new computational method that can be used to design molecular baits for any human-infecting virus. This approach enables small sequencing centers to conduct disease surveillance more efficiently and without spending as much money. Instead of metagenomic sequencing, which loses viral material among the other patient's DNA, scientists "enrich" clinical samples for a particular virus. This uses genetic bait to immobilize the virus's genetic material. The baits are "short strands of DNA or RNA that pair with bits of viral DNA", Susanna Hamilton writes. CATCH (Compact Aggregation of Targets for Comprehensive Hybridization) allows users to design custom sets of bait probes to capture genetic material of any combination of viruses. Previously, scientists could only target a few viruses at a time. Users easily input genomes from forms of human viruses that are on the National Center for Biotechnology's database. The program produces the best set of probes based on what the user is targeting. The CATCH software is publicly accessible on GitHub.

I think the CATCH software is very adaptive because it can pull any information from the Biotechnology database, which is always being updated. So when new virus strains are discovered, CATCH will already be able to access the genetic information of the strain and produce the best genetic probes for the job. This is a good thing because it makes obtaining clinical samples of the virus much easier, it will take less time, and it will save money. Hopefully this allows for more studying of the virus and better treatments for the illness.

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