Founder of Health Rising and Phoenix Rising
"VirCapSeq-VERT is a specific, sensitive, powerful way of characterizing all of the viruses in a sample. This will be an important tool for precision medicine as well as basic and clinical research." Ian Lipkin
Ian Lipkin and his colleagues a the Center for Infection and Immunity (CII) have created a way for doctors to test for viruses - ALL viruses - at once in the blood. Not only is the test comprehensive - it's been described as fast, precise and cheap. The procedure goes by the tongue twisting name of the "Virome-Capture-Sequencing platform for Vertebrate viruses (VirCapSeq-VERT)" and Lipkin reports that it's better than PCR - the gold standard for viral testing.
MBio. 2015 Sep 22;6(5). pii: e01491-15. doi: 10.1128/mBio.01491-15. Virome Capture Sequencing Enables Sensitive Viral Diagnosis and Comprehensive Virome Analysis. Briese T1, Kapoor A2, Mishra N3, Jain K3, Kumar A3, Jabado OJ3, Lipkin WI4.
It's unequivocal. It also allows you to find mutations that would circumvent traditional diagnostics, or that might would affect resistance to drugs or vaccines.” Ian Lipkin
An Atlantic Monthly piece describes a transplant patient who fell mysteriously ill. It turned out that standard viral tests would have been useless - the VirCapSeq-VERT test revealed that dengue virus - a unsuspected virus - had become reactivated.
Lipkin said “It wasn't what we anticipated, but we didn't have to make a priori decisions about what we planned to find. When people analyze samples from people who are ill, they have some idea in mind. This is probably an enterovirus, or maybe it's a herpesvirues. They then do a specific assay for that particular agent. They don't usually have the capacity to look broadly.”
Doctors currently rely on their best guess to determine which expensive PCR tests to run. The CII's test should cheaply and effectively uncover any virus present in a blood samples. The cost savings and the benefit to the patient could be high. No longer will they have to rely on doctor's best guesses to determine if they have a viral infection. While the test can pick up every virus known to infect vertebrates it doesn't appear that it will used that way in doctor's offices. The piece released by Columbia states that the VirCapSeq-VERT test for 20 viruses costs $40.
It's not clear what the implications of this new test are for chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalga. Except for what Lipkin believes to be a meaningless retrovirus, Lipkin's earlier pathogen study found no evidence of significant pathogen involvement in the plasma of ME/CFS patients.
There's still much we don't know, though. The CII's use of plasma in its big ME/CFS pathogen study was controversial and the lab is redoing the herpesvirus tests using white blood cells. The Simmaron Research Foundation is funding the first study to comprehensively assess the incidence of mosquito and tick-borne viruses and bacteria in ME/CFS. Plus, as noted above, this new test can pick up variants of viruses that PCR tests cannot.
If it's run in the blood, though, it may not pick up the kind of persistent infections some believe are present in ME/CFS and FM - but not circulating there. When the test becomes available in doctor's offices it will provide an easy way for ME/CFS and FM patients to get screened for acute infections.
Ian Lipkin has a long history of developing new techniques for pathogen discovery. He developed subtractive cloning, mass-tag PCR, pan-microbial microarray and now this. His team has discovered over 700 new viruses. Lipkin recently found a hepatitis-like virus in the blood supply- the first time that has happened in years. (The virus is not believed to be dangerous).