"This is the first report of the use of mass spectrometry for the detection of norovirus," said David R. Colquhoun, lead author of the study and research fellow with the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future. "This is a significant step towards using mass spectrometry as an environmental surveillance tool for the detection of pathogenic human viruses in complex environmental samples such as human and animal waste."
Typically, bacteria and viruses are identified by cultivation on selective media and cell lines. However, this process does not work for human norovirus, which cannot be cultured outside the human body.
Rolf Halden, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences and senior author of the study, pointed out that proteomic mass spectrometry is appealing because it has the potential to identify different types and strains of viruses regardless of whether their presence is suspected or not. "Unlike other processes, we do not need to know what we are looking for in advance. Any pathogen whose genetic information is contained in online genetic databases represents a suitable potential target. This makes the technique ideal for situations where you have an emerging infectious agent or pathogenic strain, such as in a potential terrorist attack," said Halden.
Contact: Tim Parsons or Kenna Lowe
Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health