A highly multiplexed broad pathogen detection assay for infectious disease diagnostics

by Jeffrey W. Koehler, Christina E. Douglas, Timothy D. Minogue

Rapid pathogen identification during an acute febrile illness is a critical first step for providing appropriate clinical care and patient isolation. Primary screening using sensitive and specific assays, such as real-time PCR and ELISAs, can rapidly test for known circulating infectious diseases. If the initial testing is negative, potentially due to a lack of developed diagnostic assays or an incomplete understanding of the pathogens circulating within a geographic region, additional testing would be required including highly multiplexed assays and metagenomic next generation sequencing. To bridge the gap between rapid point of care diagnostics and sequencing, we developed a highly multiplexed assay designed to detect 164 different viruses, bacteria, and parasites using the NanoString nCounter platform. Included in this assay were high consequence pathogens such as Ebola virus, highly endemic organisms including several Plasmodium species, and a large number of less prevalent pathogens to ensure a broad coverage of potential human pathogens. Evaluation of this panel resulted in positive detection of 113 (encompassing 98 different human pathogen types) of the 126 organisms available to us including the medically important Ebola virus, Lassa virus, dengue virus serotypes 1–4, Chikungunya virus, yellow fever virus, and Plasmodium falciparum. Overall, this assay could improve infectious disease diagnostics and biosurveillance efforts as a quick, highly multiplexed, and easy to use pathogen screening tool.

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