The tick-borne Lone Star virus has been conclusively identified as part of a family of other tick-borne viruses called bunyaviruses, which often cause fever, respiratory problems and bleeding, according to new research led by scientists at UC San Francisco (UCSF).
What made the work especially promising, said principal investigator Charles Chiu, MD, PhD, was the speed at which the virus was definitively identified. The team used a new approach to gene sequencing that enabled them to completely reconstruct the virus' previously unknown genome in less than 24 hours – significantly faster than conventional sequencing techniques, which can take days to weeks.
The technique, called ultra-rapid deep sequencing, combines deep sequencing – an emerging technology that reconstructs an entire DNA sequence from a tiny snippet of DNA – with advanced computational techniques and algorithms developed in the laboratories of Chiu and his research collaborators.
Chiu, an assistant professor of laboratory medicine at UCSF and director of the UCSF-Abbott Viral Diagnostics and Discovery Center, reported the results in a paper published in PLOS ONE on April 29. It can be found online at http://www.plosone.org/.
The team found that the Lone Star virus, which is carried by the Lone Star tick, Amblyomma americanum, is related to a group of human pathogens including Severe Fever with Thrombocytopenia Syndrome Virus, which infected hundreds of farmers in China between 2008 and 2010; Bhanja virus, initially found in India; Palma virus, found in Portugal; and Heartland virus, an illness recently reported among farmers in Missouri.
"We did not show that Lone Star virus causes disease in humans," Chiu cautioned, "although the laboratory and sequencing data suggest that this is a distinct possibility."
He said the work may prove to be significant in light of the fact that nearly all emerging diseases discovered over the past two decades have originated in animals. While the causes of many human infectious diseases have been "pretty well characterized," he said, researchers have "only touched the tip of the iceberg" with respect to pathogens that have the potential to pass from animals to humans.
Chiu pointed to a number of serious and unexpected animal-to-human disease transmissions over the last 10 years, including SARS in 2003, the H1N1 influenza in 2009, and the current outbreak of H7N9 avian influenza, which already has resulted in more than 20 deaths in China.
"Nature is continually throwing us curveballs," Chiu said. "We will likely always be faced with the threat of novel outbreak viruses originating in animals or insects. It will be extremely important to identify and characterize those viruses as quickly as possible – to get a head start on the development of diagnostic assays for surveillance and drugs, or vaccines for treatment – before they have a chance to really spread."
In such circumstances, ultra-rapid deep sequencing will be "extremely useful," he said. "By the time SARS was identified and sequenced using conventional methods, more than a week of time had been lost. That kind of delay could be quite risky in a virus that spreads rapidly in human populations."
Chiu and his team plan to introduce a graphical user interface that will allow small laboratories to analyze and access ultra-rapid, deep-sequencing data through cloud computing over the Internet, even though they do not have access to advanced computers.
"This will mean that any remote laboratory in Asia or Africa – where a lot of these recent outbreaks have occurred – will be able to use a portable, field-ready benchtop sequencer hooked up to a smartphone or laptop with an Internet connection, to obtain a complete genetic sequence of a novel pathogen within hours," said Chiu. "Our hope is that these efforts will democratize the surveillance and investigation of infectious diseases."
The first author of the study is Andrea Swei, PhD, of San Francisco State University. Other co-authors include Brandy J. Russell of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); Samia N. Naccache, PhD, Beniwende Kabre and Narayanan Veeraraghavan, PhD, of UCSF; and Mark A. Pilgard and Barbara J.B. Johnson, PhD, of the CDC.
The study was supported by funds from the National Institutes of Health (R56-AI089532 and RO1-HL105704), an Abbott Viral Discovery Award, the QB3 Swartz Foundation Lyme Disease Grant, the National Research Fund for Tick-borne Diseases, a UCSF Microbial Pathogenesis training grant and the CDC.
UCSF is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care.
Kristen Bole | EurekAlert!
New catalyst controls activation of a carbon-hydrogen bond
21.11.2017 | Emory Health Sciences
The main switch
21.11.2017 | Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg im Breisgau
The WHO reports an estimated 429,000 malaria deaths each year. The disease mostly affects tropical and subtropical regions and in particular the African continent. The Fraunhofer Institute for Silicate Research ISC teamed up with the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology and Applied Ecology IME and the Institute of Tropical Medicine at the University of Tübingen for a new test method to detect malaria parasites in blood. The idea of the research project “NanoFRET” is to develop a highly sensitive and reliable rapid diagnostic test so that patient treatment can begin as early as possible.
Malaria is caused by parasites transmitted by mosquito bite. The most dangerous form of malaria is malaria tropica. Left untreated, it is fatal in most cases....
The formation of stars in distant galaxies is still largely unexplored. For the first time, astron-omers at the University of Geneva have now been able to closely observe a star system six billion light-years away. In doing so, they are confirming earlier simulations made by the University of Zurich. One special effect is made possible by the multiple reflections of images that run through the cosmos like a snake.
Today, astronomers have a pretty accurate idea of how stars were formed in the recent cosmic past. But do these laws also apply to older galaxies? For around a...
Just because someone is smart and well-motivated doesn't mean he or she can learn the visual skills needed to excel at tasks like matching fingerprints, interpreting medical X-rays, keeping track of aircraft on radar displays or forensic face matching.
That is the implication of a new study which shows for the first time that there is a broad range of differences in people's visual ability and that these...
Computer Tomography (CT) is a standard procedure in hospitals, but so far, the technology has not been suitable for imaging extremely small objects. In PNAS, a team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) describes a Nano-CT device that creates three-dimensional x-ray images at resolutions up to 100 nanometers. The first test application: Together with colleagues from the University of Kassel and Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht the researchers analyzed the locomotory system of a velvet worm.
During a CT analysis, the object under investigation is x-rayed and a detector measures the respective amount of radiation absorbed from various angles....
The quantum world is fragile; error correction codes are needed to protect the information stored in a quantum object from the deteriorating effects of noise. Quantum physicists in Innsbruck have developed a protocol to pass quantum information between differently encoded building blocks of a future quantum computer, such as processors and memories. Scientists may use this protocol in the future to build a data bus for quantum computers. The researchers have published their work in the journal Nature Communications.
Future quantum computers will be able to solve problems where conventional computers fail today. We are still far away from any large-scale implementation,...
15.11.2017 | Event News
15.11.2017 | Event News
30.10.2017 | Event News
21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.11.2017 | Physics and Astronomy
21.11.2017 | Life Sciences