Virginia Tech Researchers Receive Patent For Rapid Virus Detection Technology

BLACKSBURG, Va., June 19, 1996 -- Outbreaks of intestinal diseases due to contaminated water are on the rise worldwide, and over half of these outbreaks are caused by viruses, according to Charles Hagedorn, Virginia Tech professor of crop and soil environmental sciences.

Marian Ijzerman, a 1994 Ph.D. graduate now with the EPA, along with Hagedorn, her advisor, and biology professor Joe Falkinham, have received a patent (Number 5,527,667 on June 18, 1996) for a "Rapid Virus Detection Technology," which they developed for drinking water, recreational waters, and groundwater.

The test can be used at water treatment plants and in process water used by food and pharmaceutical industries to let engineers know whether they have to conduct further tests for harmful viruses, Falkinham says.

The test detects the presence or absence of a virus indicator (coliphages). "The rapid virus detection technology is based on the fact that many viruses cause susceptible cells to break open and release their cellular contents as a consequence of viral infection. Thus, the release of compounds that are normally only found within cells is indicative of the possible presence of a virus," says Hagedorn.

The test detects a specific compound (an enzyme) released from cells in the test medium -- "a cellular equivalent of canaries used to detect gas in mines," says Hagedorn.

Presently, the presence of the bacterium, Escherichia coli (E. coli), is used throughout the world as an indicator of human fecal contamination of water. If viruses able to infect E. coli are present in a water sample, then its host, E. coli must also be present.

"An advantage of the rapid virus test is that viruses are usually live longer in water samples than bacterial cells, thus presence of virus can indicate previous fecal contamination of wat

Contact: Joseph Falkinham or Charles Hagedorn
Virginia Tech

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