New Test May Allow for Rapid Detection of the Smallpox Virus

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Researchers from Spain have developed a new test that may rapidly detect the variola virus, the etiological agent of smallpox, as well as differentiate it from other orthopoxviruses while avoiding false-negative results. Their findings appear in the December 2006 issue of the Journal of Clinical Microbiology.

Smallpox, one of the most serious and deadly diseases in the history of mankind, is attributed to the variola virus (VARV). Belonging to the orthopoxvirus genus, humans are the only know reservoir and despite its eradication in1980, smallpox is currently considered to pose major risk as a biological weapon.

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In the study researchers used a specific probe to detect the variola virus and simultaneously differentiate it from other orthopoxviruses using a real-time genome amplification test based on TaqMan 3'-minor groove binder. A series of tests utilizing this method regularly detected 100 copies of variola virus DNA while avoiding false-negative results.

"The results obtained suggest that the assay is rapid, sensitive, specific, and suitable for the generic detection of orthopoxviruses and the identification of variola virus and avoids false-negative results in a single reaction tube.

(C.G. Fedele, A. Negredo, F. Molero, M.P. Sanchez-Seco, A. Tenorio. 2006. Use of internally controlled real-time genome amplification for detection of Variola virus and other Orthopoxviruses infecting humans. Journal of Clinical Microbiology, 44. 12: 4464-4470.)

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