Late last month, medical science took a quiet but incredibly huge leap forward, and added another item to its bulging inventory of ‘Things That Might Save Your Butt One Day’: introducing, the ViroCap.
First reported on in the online medical science journal Genome Research and developed in Washington University of St. Louis, Minnesota, USA, the ViroCap test’s function is simple but incredible: it tests whoever you apply it to for infection of virtually every virus known to mankind, all at once.
Until now, doctors have been stuck applying different tests for different things – the test that spots HIV, for example, will not spot Influenza or Ebola, and vice versa. This means that if your questioning quack wasn’t entirely sure what you were stuck with, they’d have to run multiple tests, which took a long time and a lot of money – and didn’t even guarantee a positive result. Conversely, you can hit anyone with any virus with ViroCap, and the test will spot whatever they’ve got, as well as being able to spot variations of viruses.
Not only does the ViroCap test cast a wider net, the net’s mesh is finer as well – ViroCap’s sensitivity (as in, how often it spots things as opposed to missing them) is not only just as good as the medical world’s current means of testing for viruses, but according to a report from United Press International, is actually 52 per cent moreso, meaning the test will help catch bugs that doctors may have missed in the past.
“The test is so sensitive that it also detects variant strains of viruses that are closely related genetically,” notes Todd Wylie, a pediatrics professor at the history-making university, as well as going on to mention that this was something past tests were incapable of, which often got in the way of doctors getting stuff done.
The researchers behind the breakthrough say they plan to continue work on the test, whipping it into better accuracy and test it out more, so the world knows what it’s getting. This latter point is also the reason that we’re likely a few years away from ViroCap seeing regular use in hospitals – because of the lives that will hang in the balance of the test, it will require many, many extensive clinical trials before it sees the inside of a surgery.
However, the researchers of ViroCap also plan to release the technology behind it, such that other institutions and researchers around the world can also work to test its effectiveness and refine it. With such teamwork behind the wheel, the test seems like quite an achievable goal with many future applications, and who knows how long it’ll be before it goes viral? (boosh!)