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Lethal Virus Detection

Test Bed Vision:

“To develop next generation diagnostic tools for the early detection of viral encephalitis”

It’s a tragic story that hospitals see all too often of a child appearing at the Emergency Room with a signs of what could be a mild viral infection. By the time the symptoms are severe enough to indicate viral encephalitis, the child is close to death and has suffered irreversible brain damage. These cases happen because viral infections are often undetectable during their incubation period, before clinical signs arise. By the time that symptoms appear there is little that medical staff can do.

Medical interventions are often implemented late into the clinical phase of the disease at a time when it’s too late to begin successful treatment. Meanwhile, the person infected with the viral pathogen may already be transmitting the disease to others. For example, the Ebola virus can have a three week incubation period which allows for the undetected movement of the virus for an extended period.

Viral encephalitis has a disproportionate impact compared to other pathogens. Mortality is high and when the patient survives, there is a greater probability of long-term debilitation.

This test bed will use neurotropic viruses as a model system to build a platform to develop next-generation diagnostic devices for the early detection of infectious diseases by testing host response to infection before clinical signs appear.

There are three aims of the research. The first is to develop stem cell models for human neutropic pathogens that would also entail isolating novel biomarkers expressed by host cells. The second is to develop a next generation bioniformatic platform for analysing host microRNA profiles using BigData technology to identify patterns of miRNA expression to enable robust diagnoses from large data sources. The third aim is developing prototype technologies for portable, point-of-care measurement of circulating microRNA profiles that will be assessed in field trials.

This test bed is led by Megan Dearnley from CSIRO’s AAHL. Other participants include John Bingham, Christopher Cowled, Cameron Stewart, Andrew Bean, Dennis Bauer, Carmel O’Brien, Andrew Lastlett, Ryan Farr, Nathan Godde, Vinod Sundaramoorthy and Diane Green.

This research test bed is a collaboration by staff from CSIRO’s AAHL, Health and Biosecurity and Manufacturing Business Units.