Technique facilitates detection of new mutations and viral re-assortment in patient samples.

Scientists at the Genome Institute of Singapore (GIS) and Roche NimbleGen have developed a new PCR amplification and microarray-based sequencing approach that can rapidly amplify and sequence whole influenza A virus genomes. This technique helps in the identification of new mutations and viral re-assortment.

The GIS and NimbleGen researchers say the approach uses the same RNA left over from traditional PCR-based diagnostics and can recognize any novel strain of influenza in the first pass. The custom-developed, high-density microarrays, the first of which were designed, manufactured, and shipped to Singapore within 4 days of the projects starting, are capable of sequencing the complete flu virus to highlight even single-point mutations, Roche claims. In cases of viral re-assortment, the technology can identify which strain of Influenza A the virus has combined with and pinpoint the genomic location of re-assortment to help track viral evolution.

The technique can be carried out on patient samples such as nasal swabs or nasal pharyngeal washes. The scientists suggest that the approach will allow faster development of diagnostics for new variants of influenza, speed the detection of mutations linked with increased drug resistance, and keep tabs on flu virus evolution.

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