A possible health surveillance breakthrough

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Yale researchers have found that testing for the presence of a single immune system molecule on nasal swabs can help detect stealthy viruses not identified in standard tests, they report Jan. 1 in the journal Lancet Microbe.

Finding a dangerous new virus is like searching for a needle in a haystack,” said Ellen Foxman, associate professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology and senior author of the study. “We found a way to significantly reduce the size of the haystack.”

…For the new study, Foxman and her team revisited an observation made in her lab in 2017, which they thought may provide a new way to monitor for unexpected pathogens. Nasal swabs are commonly taken from patients with suspected respiratory infections and are tested to detect specific signatures of 10 to 15 known viruses. Most tests come back negative. But as Foxman’s team observed in 2017, in a few cases the swabs of those who tested negative for the “usual suspect” viruses still exhibited signs that antiviral defenses were activated, indicating the presence of a virus. The telltale sign was a high level of a single antiviral protein made by the cells that line the nasal passages.

Here is further information, this is a project funded and accelerated by Fast Grants.

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