Researchers develop lab diagnostic methods for viral pathogens

By Wai Lang Chu

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Virus

Researchers are to develop new computational diagnostic methods for
key viral pathogens, which are set to make the storage, retrieval,
and exchange of molecular and diagnostic data on viral pathogens
more efficient and effective.

Under the terms of a new collaboration, information on encephalic and hemorrhagic viruses will be made more accessible as scientists battle to contain some of the most contagious and lethal viruses known worldwide.

These include the deadly Ebola and Marburg viruses, as well as mosquito-borne viruses that cause infectious diseases like Dengue and Yellow Fever.

Due to their short replication times, high mutation rates and often-lethal effects, encephalic and hemorrhagic viruses are likely candidates for use as biological weapons.

Under the terms of the agreement, information on encephalic and hemorrhagic viruses from VBI's PathPort project will be integrated into Orion​'s Integrated Computational Analysis System (ICAS), a portable computational tool

"The lack of diagnostic tools that can integrate and analyse molecular surveillance data is a major gap in disease prevention and the development of countermeasure responses,"​ said Oswald Crasta, director of bioinformatics for VBI​'s Cyberinfrastructure Group.

"The combination of PathPort's ability to make information on pathogens readily available in an easy-to-use format with the powerful diagnostic capabilities of Orion's computational technologies should help to link specific diagnostic features of viruses to disease outbreaks as well as geographical distribution,"​ he added.

There has been tremendous innovation in the methods used to derive new chemical compounds; however, these efforts have made little impact in the development of antivirals.

Despite the increased capability for drug identification and synthesis, in 1990 there were just five licensed antiviral drugs, today; there are more than forty.

Most of these drugs are for treatment of HIV, influenza, hepatitis, and herpes viruses. Unfortunately, the burst in therapeutic antivirals has not resulted in a long-term trend in drug development.

In 2002, out of 89 new drugs, no new antibiotics were approved. In 2004, of 506 drugs in development, only five were new antibiotics and none were antiviral.

Recent studies show that despite widespread resistance and dramatic progress in genomics and computational biology, antiviral development efforts are declining worldwide.

Despite the importance in public health, the development of therapeutic countermeasures against encephalic and hemorrhagic diseases and influenza has been given little attention by the pharmaceutical industry in favour of drugs to treat chronic conditions.

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