NEW TOOL CAN DETECT ANY HUMAN VIRUS



Zombie fans may be familiar with the memorable scenes of World War Z in which survivors are herded inside the walls of Jerusalem by soldiers, and inspected like cattle for any signs of the infection plaguing the outside world. The scenario plays out in almost every zombie film, series, and video game because it makes sense! Collecting scientific data and conducting surveillance of new arrivals can provide crucial information for controlling future outbreaks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already perform much of this hard work for America via their Division of Global Migration and Quarantine which includes the Immigrant, Refugee, and Migrant Health Branch. They oversee a number of mandatory health screenings every year for immigrants and refugees expected to enter the United States by legal means.

However, illegal immigration may expose Americans to highly contagious diseases that have otherwise been virtually eradicated. Obviously, this would be the case during a worldwide zombie epidemic. Ports of entry would be overwhelmed with those fleeing the deadly virus!

In addition, many of these diseases and viruses are practically undetectable via conventional means. Our current methods, such as metagenomic sequencing, often miss viral material due to the abundance of other microbes present in the sample, including the patient’s own DNA.

For example; during the recent Zika outbreak, both scientists and health officials struggled to contain the epidemic. But there simply weren’t enough virus particles in the blood to detect a carrier of the disease. One article described it as “fishing for a minnow in an ocean.” However, research recently published by Nature Biotechnology provides a solution to this problem.

Built in the lab of Broad Institute researcher Pardis Sabeti, the “CATCH” method can be used to design molecular “baits” for any virus known to infect humans and all their known strains, including those that are present in low abundance in clinical samples, such as Zika. The approach can help small sequencing centers around the globe conduct disease surveillance more efficiently and cost-effectively, which can provide crucial information for controlling outbreaks.

Read that again; tools like CATCH can detect “any virus known to infect humans and all their known strains.” That’s every single known virus in the entire world! Just imagine something like a tricorder from Star Trek, except much more intrusive, examining every man, woman, and child for the zombie virus. It’s a pretty amazing prospect, but it’s also incredibly scary.

The far-reaching implications for this “Compact Aggregation of Targets for Comprehensive Hybridization” are especially interesting when you consider the fact that one of the authors recently joined a private biotech startup. This technology is coming soon, so be prepared!

We’ve already discussed the draconian proposals introduced in the aftermath of the 2001 anthrax attacks on the United States. But the world has changed dramatically since then, and no one seems to have any problem sacrificing their privacy or rights for access to Google, Facebook, and Twitter. And we imagine even fewer will object when their lives are in danger.

Tools like CATCH offer the world a way of actually identifying carriers of the zombie virus, and effectively stopping the inevitable apocalypse dead in its tracks! We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again; if you imagine the post-zombie landscape as a lawless wasteland populated by roving bandits and anarchists, you might want to reconsider! Because it may look more like an internment camp. And ultimately, only you can chose to sacrifice liberty for security.

To learn more about CATCH please read the original study “Capturing Sequence Diversity in Metagenomes With Comprehensive and Scalable Probe Design” available online as published by Nature Biotechnology. You can even contribute to the CATCH software here via GitHub, or simply review this amazingly in-depth article by author Leah Eisenstadt online at Phys.org.



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