Molecular imaging may lead to earlier diagnosis of childhood respiratory virus

"Most pathologists look at thick sections of RSV in formaldehyde, but our 3D structures are more fluid and amorphous than the solid structures pathologists have observed," Santangelo said. "The more we know about how RSV really looks, the more we'll understand about its pathogenesis."

RSV is the most important cause of respiratory infection in young children worldwide, infecting virtually every child in the first few years of life. Immunity is feeble and fleeting, and repeated infections are the rule. One in every 100 or 200 infected infants requires hospitalization, usually for bronchiolitis. There is not yet an effective vaccine for RSV, and current anti-viral drugs are in their infancy in terms of efficacy, Santangelo noted.

Ultimately, researchers want to conduct in vivo testing, but must first adapt their molecular beacons technology for that purpose, Santangelo said. "In the nearer term, we hope to use molecular beacons to detect RSV in clinical samples like with those taken with a nasal swab. We might be able to detect RSV in its first day of incubation and make an early diagnosis,'' he added.

The researchers also hope their research will lead to development of a suite of anti-viral drugs for treating RSV and other viruses, including human influenza.


Contact: Jane Sanders
Georgia Institute of Technology Research News

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