Next Generation Molecular Diagnostics for Emerging Viral Diseases

Conducted by Dr. Francois Jean
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T he global health burdens of emerging and re-emerging viral diseases such as West Nile fever and dengue hemorrhagic fever (DHF) are dramatically increasing. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Canada recorded the third highest number of West Nile virus (WNV) cases in 2012; moreover, about 2.5 billion people are now at risk of dengue virus (DENV) infection worldwide with an estimated 390-million dengue cases annually, of which approximately 30% occur in India. WNV infection can lead to neuroinvasive disease and DENV infection and progress to life-threatening DHF; rapid and reliable diagnosis is therefore critical. However, current diagnostic tools are limited in their sensitivity, specificity, and multiplexing capabilities for detecting and identifying WNV and the four DENV serotypes circulating around the world. In light of these limitations, the WHO and the US Centers for Disease Control have stated that the development of early, rapid, and robust diagnostic methods for WNV and DENV should be research priorities.

In this IC-IMPACTS research program, Dr. Jean (UBC, Canada) and Dr. Chattopadhyay (NationWide, India) are leading a multidisciplinary team of distinguished investigators from Canada and India to develop and deliver a rapid, robust, and sensitive non-invasive multiplexing diagnostic test for detecting WNV and DENV in blood samples. The novel diagnostic technology will be validated and optimized using clinical samples obtained from Canadian and Indian patients who have been hospitalized with laboratory- confirmed WNV and DENV infections respectively. Upon delivery and deployment, this cutting-edge diagnostic for the detection of emerging and re-emerging viruses would have an enormous on-the-ground impact on healthcare in Canadian and Indian communities.