Wednesday 30 October 2013

New MERS-CoV laboratory test: takes 10-minutes but what can it tell you?

Back in June we heard of a quick test for MERS-CoV to add to the diagnostic armamentarium. I posted on it here.

Now that the Abu Dhabi Medical Congress & Exhibition it was presented at is over, we are hearing about it again through a story at The National. 

Still no details though, so my original concerns about sensitivity (how often will it miss true positive cases because it is not sensitive enough?) linger on.

Further, it's a "blood test" that also uses DNA amplification so the patient will presumably need to be sick enough to have a viraemia (virus spilling over into the blood) so it may not help at all for screening contacts or less ill people with lower viral loads. It is being described as useful for "identifying the virus in its early stages". 

Another assay that looks similar, described in PLoSONE by these researchers earlier in the year, does not appear comparable to PCR-based methods in terms of its sensitivity. 

For MERS-CoV, as for any newly emerging pathogen with unknown characteristics spreading in ways we are yet to understand, detection sensitivity is a key factor.

I look forward to seeing same real-world evaluation data.

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