New Gene Test Speeds Diagnosis of Stomach Bug That Strikes Kids

FRIDAY, July 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers have developed a genetic test to quickly detect a respiratory virus that sickened a record number of American children last year.

More than 1,000 confirmed cases and 14 reported deaths nationwide were reported in the outbreak of enterovirus D68 (EV-D68), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new test is effective at identifying various strains of the virus and speeds its detection, according to the team at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Previous tests for identifying enterovirus strains took several days to process, making their use impractical with large numbers of patients. The new test takes a few hours and is more specific than commercial tests for enterovirus, researchers said.

"Commercial tests for respiratory viral infections typically don't distinguish between rhinoviruses, which cause the common cold, and enteroviruses, and within each of those groups there are many different types. Having a tool to identify which cases of respiratory illness are actually EV-D68 is an advantage for public health," senior study author Dr. Gregory Storch, a professor of pediatrics, said in a university news release.

"These kinds of tests help treatment decisions because it is important to know that the patient doesn't have influenza or another disease that might require a specific treatment. It's also important in a hospital for preventing infections because doctors take patients with one particular virus and keep them apart from patients infected with other infectious agents," he explained.

The researchers published details of the test's techniques online recently in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about EV-D68.

SOURCE: Washington University School of Medicine, news release, July 22, 2015

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